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Can a zinc deficiency affect fertility?
If you’re someone who’s always wanted children, and the time is starting to feel right, you may have fertility on the brain. But what does healthy fertility look like? It involves many variables and there are certain lifestyle choices that can help increase your chances of conceiving.
Some of these include committing to healthy eating, getting enough exercise, and vitamin and mineral supplementation. But there’s one mineral in particular that’s a must for healthy fertility, because of its ability to support cell growth and function: zinc.
What is fertility?
Simply put, when an individual is considered fertile, it means they are able to produce a child. But it takes two fertile individuals to conceive, and the conditions of their bodies have an impact on successful conception.
Female fertility and the menstrual cycle
Whether or not the female reproductive system can achieve pregnancy depends on the hormonal cycles in the body, and this has a lot to do with the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is divided up into four phases, beginning with menstruation (the time of the month when bleeding occurs). Menstruation is followed by the follicular phase, which is when an egg is released.
After the follicular phase comes the period of ovulation, the time when an egg is released into the uterus. If this egg meets a sperm within approximately 24 hours, then insemination and pregnancy are a possibility. If not, the egg will die and prompt another menstrual cycle.
The role of sperm in male fertility
The male reproductive system is responsible for producing, storing, and transporting sperm. A man is considered fertile if his ejaculate measures 15 million sperm per millimetre. Any fewer than that will make chances of insemination lower due to fewer candidates that are able to fertilize an egg.
Healthy levels of motility in sperm are considered to be 40% or more (meaning that 40% or more of sperm within ejaculate are capable of movement). Sperm development is dependent on a hormone called testosterone, the primary sex hormone in males.
Can a zinc deficiency affect fertility?
The nutrients we do or don’t get from our diet certainly play a role in fertility. And research shows that zinc, a mineral that we cannot store in our body and have to replenish regularly, has a distinct impact on whether or not an individual is fertile. This is due to its essential relationship to DNA formation and the growth of cells.
Because of the role it plays in growth and development, it’s even more important during times of rapid growth (ie. pregnancy). Zinc is also involved in the production of both male and female hormones that contribute directly to fertility.
Zinc’s impact on female fertility
In order to become pregnant, a mature egg must be released from the ovaries each month during ovulation. And this process takes much longer than the average menstrual cycle. In fact, it takes about 300 days for an egg to grow and mature! Research shows that individuals who are deficient in zinc yielded smaller egg development, which can go on to negatively influence fertilization and implantation.
Hormone production and regulation
The pituitary gland is responsible for regulating and producing hormones in the body. It also relies on sufficient levels of zinc in order to carry out the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FHS), which promotes the growth of ovarian follicles, as well as stimulates healthy ovulation.
Zinc’s impact on male fertility
We saw earlier that testosterone plays a major role in sperm development, which is a requirement for pregnancy. And it just so happens that zinc is crucial for the production of testosterone.
This is because zinc helps to enhance the cells within the testes that produce this important hormone. It also increases the conversion of other male hormones into testosterone. A zinc deficiency can cause a decrease in testosterone production, which then goes on to impact sperm development.
Making sure you’re getting enough zinc
To maintain your health and optimize fertility, women require a minimum of 8mg of zinc per day and men require 11mg per day. However, there are some individuals who may not be getting enough zinc either because their diets are unbalanced or because of a medical condition. For example, vegetarians may find they have a zinc deficiency due to a lack of meat or fish in their diet. Those with sickle cell anemia, a disorder of red blood cells that can cause premature birth or miscarriage, may also need to increase their zinc consumption as a result of their condition. As always, it is best to run this past your healthcare practitioner before choosing to start any new health regime.
Next steps for your fertility
From egg production and hormone regulation to sperm generation and testosterone production, zinc is a might mineral that’s used all over our bodies. And it’s especially beneficial for your fertility.
We understand that working on improving your fertility may be a difficult task. But maintaining a healthy diet, a positive mindset, and supplementing when needed will definitely be worth it in the end.
Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men’s Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization
How Zinc Affects Fertility
Nutrient Supplementation: Improving Male Fertility Fourfold
Pretreatment with coenzyme Q10 improves ovarian response and embryo quality in low-prognosis young women with decreased ovarian reserve: a randomized controlled trial
Sickle cell anemia and pregnancy