Testosterone is a hormone that plays an important role in men’s health. It’s responsible for maintaining sex drive, as well as muscle and bone strength. Testosterone levels peak during early adulthood, and then begin to drop as a part of the natural aging process.
If your testosterone levels fall below the normal range, you may have a condition called hypogonadism. Hypogonadism can result from several treatable medical conditions. The cause may be as simple as a nutritional deficiency in zinc.
Contact your doctor for a physical exam and a hormone level test if you suspect that you have low testosterone.
Causes and symptoms of low testosterone
Testosterone levels naturally decrease as you age, but testosterone can also be reduced by:
- certain genetic disorders
- cancer treatment
- injury to your testicles
- conditions that affect your pituitary or hypothalamus glands
- inflammatory diseases
- gland disorders
- taking certain medications
If an underlying condition is causing your low testosterone, treating the cause could improve this symptom.
Regardless of its cause, hypogonadism can make you feel fatigued. Other symptoms include:
- reduced muscle mass
- lowered sex drive
- erectile dysfunction
- hot flashes
- difficulty concentrating
Talk to your doctor about treatment options if any of these symptoms are disrupting your life.
Zinc and hypogonadism
Zinc is an essential dietary mineral. You need zinc for your immune system to function properly and for cell division. Zinc helps enzymes break down food and other nutrients. It also plays an important role in enzymes that build proteins. It can be found in certain foods, but it’s also available in supplements and even certain cold medications.
Having a zinc deficiency can lead to low testosterone. Exactly why a lack of zinc impacts testosterone levels isn’t fully understood. The mineral may affect the cells in the testes that produce testosterone.
Research and studies
Research into the effectiveness of zinc for hypogonadism is limited. But guided and appropriate supplementation may help raise your testosterone levels. One study researched the effects of a magnesium and zinc supplement. It found that men who received 30 milligrams of zinc per day showed increased levels of free testosterone in their bodies.
Using a supplement may not be necessary. Another study demonstrated that using a zinc supplement won’t raise your testosterone levels if you’re already getting enough of the mineral. The study participants included men whose daily diets included the recommended amounts of zinc. Giving these men zinc supplements didn’t increase their testosterone levels.
Because your body can’t store zinc, you need to take it in every day. For men over the age of 19, the recommended daily amount of zinc is 11 milligrams.
Foods that have significant amounts of zinc include:
- fortified cereals and breads
- dietary supplements
Zinc supplements can help, but it’s also possible to take too much zinc, which could be harmful. Toxicity can occur in adult men who take more than 40 milligrams per day. Symptoms of zinc toxicity include:
- abdominal cramps
Zinc deficiency in the United States is uncommon, but it is possible. Those at risk for a deficiency include people with gastrointestinal disorders, vegetarians, vegans, and alcoholics. People with sickle cell anemia and older adults who are undernourished are also at risk.
Outlook and next steps
See your doctor for a proper diagnosis before trying to treat what you suspect is low testosterone with zinc supplements. An underlying condition that needs treatment could be the cause, rather than a zinc deficiency.