Zinc and Testosterone: Understanding the Connection

On: March 1, 2019
Erectile Dysfunction, low testosterone, Testosterone, zinc

If you’re having issues with your testosterone levels or libido, it could be because of a zinc deficiency. This powerful mineral has been proven to affect testosterone levels.

Keep reading to find out the link between zinc and testosterone.

All About Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that is crucial for your body in a number of ways. Zinc is key to keeping your immune system strong, supporting normal growth, and heal any wounds.

Zinc sounds pretty great, right? Only one problem: unlike other vitamins and minerals, your body can’t store zinc, so you need to make sure you’re taking it every day.

If you are a man over the age of 19, it’s suggested to take at least 11 milligrams a day. Women need less zinc than men and are only recommended to take 8 milligrams of zinc a day.

That could come in a supplement form or from food.

Foods That Are Packed with Zinc

If you’re looking to add more zinc to your diet, try foods that are packed with the mineral. Usually, a high protein diet has enough zinc since a lot of shellfish (especially crab and oysters) are full of zinc. You can also get it from meats like beef, pork, lamb, and chicken.

If you’re a vegetarian, then you might want to get your zinc from yogurt, beans, nuts, whole grains, yeast, dietary supplements, or bread and cereals that are zinc fortified.

Zinc Supplements

Zinc supplements come in an array of different forms. You might have zinc in your daily multivitamin, or as a combination like zinc sulfate, zinc gluconate, or zinc acetate.

You also can get zinc orotate, which is zinc that is distilled into acid. This form is the easiest for your body to take in.

Can You Take Too Much Zinc?

If you’re going to for a zinc supplement, be warned that it is possible to take too much zinc. If you take too much of this mineral, it could be harmful. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, zinc toxicity might happen if you take more than 40 milligrams of zinc a day.

Some symptoms of taking too much zinc include headaches, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and/or abdominal cramping.

It’s important to note that high levels of zinc can reduce available copper in the body and affect iron levels as well. High levels of zinc can also interfere with different kinds of medications. Though it is estimated that 40 milligrams of zinc is safe for men to take daily, there is no long-term research into the effects that this practice could yield.

Zinc Deficiency

In the United States, zinc deficiencies are actually uncommon but can happen. People who are at risk of a zinc deficiency are vegans, alcoholics, vegetarians, people with eating disorders, and those with gastrointestinal issues. If you suffer from sickle cell anemia, are elderly, or are malnourished, you also risk having a zinc deficiency.

Some medications like ACE inhibitors, stomach acid reducers like Zantac and Prilosec, or thiazide diuretics can lead to zinc deficiency.

Side effects of a zinc deficiency include weight loss, lack of appetite, difficulty fighting off illnesses, and/or slow growth for children. If you do not attempt to take more zinc, other side effects include eye and skin lesions, hair loss, delayed wound healing, impotence, and hypogonadism.

The body only can only hold two to three grams of zinc at a time. This mineral goes through the organs, bones, and blood. Because of this, it can be challenging to diagnose zinc deficiency, since normal blood levels don’t show the absence of zinc.

To see if you have a zinc deficiency, you may have to have your hair examined or take a zinc taste test (ZTT).

Other Zinc Benefits

If you take the proper amount of zinc, your body can reap many benefits, such as better brain health. A team of scientists from MIT and Duke discovered that zinc helps your memory and learning ability.

Zinc is also great for keeping your heart healthy. This mineral helps protect your heart from coronary artery disease and damage to your heart muscle.

A healthy dose of zinc can also affect your energy and overall endurance. This is why you want to make sure you have enough zinc before a long day or working out at the gym.

Zinc helps convert your food into energy. If you don’t have enough zinc, you’ll have less endurance, muscle strength, and have a hard time with your cardiorespiratory functions.

Zinc Interactions

Zinc can interact with other medication. Before taking this supplement, be sure to consult with your doctor, especially if you are taking other medication.


Zinc can lower how much of the antibiotic your body can absorb. Meaning if you take zinc with an antibiotic, this mineral can lower the effectiveness of your prescription.

Some antibiotics that zinc has this effect on include enoxacin (Penetrex), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), sparfloxacin (Zagam), norfloxacin (Chibroxin, Noroxin), grepafloxacin (Raxar), and trovafloxacin (Trovan).

If you are taking a tetracycline antibiotic, zinc can attach itself to this medication in your stomach. This means it’s harder for your body to absorb tetracyclines.

To stop this interaction, be sure to take your supplement at least two to four hours before or after taking tetracycline. Some of these types of antibiotics are minocycline (Minocin), demeclocycline (Declomycin), and tetracycline (Achromycin).

Cisplatin (Platinol-AQ)

If you take zinc with this medication, it could increase your side effects from this medication.


Penicillamine is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and Wilson’s disease. If you are taking penicillamine, zinc may make it harder for your body to absorb this medication.

Amiloride (Midamor) 

This medication minorly interacts with zinc. It’s used as a “water pill” to remove excess water in your body. This medication can also increase the amount of zinc in your body, which could lead to zinc toxicity if you’re not careful.

Zinc and Testosterone

Zinc is a trace mineral that all of your cells need, especially your prostate cells. Prostate cells collect more zinc than any other cell in your body. High amounts of zinc are also found in your eyes, kidney, liver, bones, pancreas, and muscles.

Your body also needs zinc to help your immune system to properly function. This is why it may be suggested that you suck on a zinc lozenge if you feel a sore throat or cold coming on.

Zinc is also key for the synthesis of your DNA, protein, wound healing, cell division, and cell metabolism. Your body also needs zinc to properly smell and taste as it stimulates about 100 enzymes in your body.

Since zinc affects your testosterone, this means zinc also plays a role in your overall sexual health and libido. This is because when your testosterone levels rise, so does your sex drive. If you are suffering from erectile dysfunction, it might be due to your low testosterone levels, and a zinc supplement may be recommended to you by your doctor.

Studies That Back Zinc’s Effect on Testosterone

Zinc and testosterone are connected because zinc helps promote your natural testosterone levels. This was discovered in a study where elite wrestlers were given 3 milligrams of zinc sulfate a day for four weeks along with their regular diet.

It was found that their testosterone levels were higher post-supplement compared to before they took the supplement. This study suggests that zinc prevents the inhibition of testosterone.

Another study from 1996 saw a very distinct relationship between testosterone and zinc. It tested young men on a diet of very low zinc to the point that they became deficient in zinc. This study found these men’s testosterone levels decreased by 75 percent on a low zinc diet.

This same study tested the effect of zinc supplements on older men. It was found that with an increase in the amount of this mineral, testosterone levels doubled.

A 2013 study shows that sense of smell may actually be important to libido, especially in younger men. That means that zinc deficiency, which can reduce the sense of smell, may also reduce libido. Zinc not only impacts the level of testosterone but also may cause a loss of the ability to detect subtle chemicals that induce arousal.

Low Testosterone Levels & Zinc Deficiency

Testosterone is a hormone essential for men’s health. It’s what fuel’s a man’s sex drive and gives strength to bones and muscles. A man’s testosterone levels will peak during early adulthood, and then will drop as you age.

If you have low testosterone, then you may have a condition called hypogonadism. This condition can happen from various medical conditions including a zinc deficiency. If you think your testosterone levels are low, contact your doctor for a hormone test.

Causes and Symptoms of Low Testosterone

Testosterone levels get lower the older you get, but your testosterone can also be lowered by factors like certain genetic disorders or medical treatments. Injury to the testicles, obesity, gland disorders, HIV, particular medications, inflammatory diseases, and conditions that can impact your hypothalamus or pituitary glands can also change your testosterone levels

If one of these conditions is lowering your testosterone levels, treating it may improve your symptoms. If you don’t treat hypogonadism, then you may feel tired, experience hot flashes, have erectile dysfunction and a lower sex drive. You may also have reduced muscle mass and have a hard time concentrating.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

Can Zinc Improve Your Hypogonadism?

A zinc deficiency can trigger low testosterone levels. But the reason why a lack of zinc impacts hypogonadism still isn’t understood. The mineral might have an impact on the cells in the testes that produce testosterone.

Actual research for zinc and hypogonadism is limited, but it’s suggested that the appropriate amount of zinc supplements might help raise your testosterone levels. One study showed men who took 30 milligrams of zinc a day had higher levels of free testosterone in their bodies.

Erectile Dysfunction & Zinc Deficiency

One of the most common sexual issues men deal is erectile dysfunction (ED). Erectile dysfunction is when a man is unable to maintain an erection for sexual activity.

There are of course a variety of issues that could spark ED, ranging from depression to nutrient deficiencies. Always consult with your doctor to find the cause of your ED before self-diagnosing.

However, it has been determined that zinc deficiency and erectile dysfunction have been connected. This is because zinc is key to helping cells metabolize nutrients as well as inducing the production of testosterone. Due to this, if you are deficient in zinc, it could be triggering your erectile dysfunction.

A 2009 study gave rats five milligrams of zinc a day. It was found these rats got more aroused and had an easier time maintaining an erection compared to rats without the zinc supplement.

Treating Erectile Dysfunction

However, just because you have erectile dysfunction doesn’t mean you have low levels of testosterone. ED can be caused by other factors like diabetes, injuries, stress, the state of one’s nervous system, and heart disease.

On the other hand, hypogonadism or low testosterone levels can also cause ED. Testosterone levels decrease with age, and some medications can lower your testosterone levels.

Since zinc has been proven to improve your testosterone levels, if you are older, taking medication that lowers your testosterone, and have ED, you may want to consider adding this supplement to your diet.

Other natural supplements that have been linked to helping ED include Korean red ginseng, L-Arginine, carnitine, and DHEA. But zinc therapy is considered the best to improve testosterone levels because of the numerous studies that back it.

Try Zinc to Improve Your Testosterone Levels

If you have low testosterone levels that are impacting your life and perhaps leading to erectile dysfunction, ask your doctor about adding zinc supplements to your diet. It has been proven in numerous studies the positive effects this mineral has on testosterone.

We hope this cleared up any questions you may have about zinc and testosterone. For more information on men’s health, check out our blog.

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