Zinc in the Treatment of Infertility

Zinc is the most widely investigated nutrient in terms of fertility for both men and women. Zinc contributes to ovulation and fertility in women and semen and testosterone production in men. A lack of zinc is associated with sperm abnormalities. Therefore when trying to conceive may help to maintain sperm count volume and keeping sperm healthy.

Zinc Fertility Benefits

Zinc is necessary to maintain a healthy reproductive system and for efficacious sperm production.  Zinc is essential in the creation of the outer membrane and tail of a sperm. Low levels of zinc in men cause the sperm to ‘clump’, hence, adequate zinc intake is imperative for boosting sperm motility.  This mineral is also responsible for the creation and releasing of enzymes in the head of a sperm that act as a drill into the outer shell of the egg allowing the sperm to pass. It’s usually considered that you need a sperm count of at least 20 million per ml to achieve natural conception. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), to maximise fertility at least 30% need to be of normal shape and form, and 50% should be actively moving.  Several researches have shown that zinc supplement improves both sperm count motility, and the physical characteristics of sperm in some groups of infertile men.

Zinc is an necessary mineral for male sexual function, increasing the amount of the male hormone testosterone and raising sperm count.  Zinc intake of less than 5 mg per day has shown to correlate with reduced semen volume and testosterone levels. Oxidative stress, overproduction of  ROS (reactive oxygen species) in relation to defence mechanisms, is considered to be a important cause of male infertility.  Zinc has antioxidative effects and plays a critical role in scavenging reactive oxygen species.

A study reported in the Feb 2009 edition of  Nutrition Research demonstrated that low zinc levels in semen correlated with lower sperm counts and a higher degree of abnormal sperm morphology. Subfertility affects one in 20 men. Although sexual function is normal, there is a reduced count of dysfunctional spermatozoa. In a study reported in the Asian Journal of Andrology in 2009, scientists examined the effect of zinc on 458 subfertile men. The researchers found that zinc levels in the body were directly associated with sperm count and are necessary for the development of sperm cells. In a study, 100 male participants with low sperm motility received either 57 mg of zinc twice daily or a placebo.  After 3 months, there was important improvement in sperm quality, sperm motility, sperm count, and fertilizing capacity of the sperm. A study reported in the Fertility and Sterility in 2002 demonstrated a positive relationship between folate and zinc, sperm production in infertile men. The men taking the zinc sulfate (66 mg) and folic acid (5 mg) combination improved their sperm count by 74%.

Low levels of zinc have been directly linked to miscarriage in the early stages of a pregnancy, according to “The Centers for Disease Control’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Report”.  Zinc lack has been linked to an increase in preterm births. According to the results of a review of 17 studies that involved more than 9000 women and their babies, supplement with zinc helped reduce preterm births. Recent research reveals that healthy eggs need a tremendous amount of zinc to reach maturity and be ready for fertilization. “Understanding zinc’s role may eventually help us measure the quality of an egg and lead to advances in fertility treatment,” says Alison Kim, a postdoctoral fellow in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University.

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