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Heavy exercise and infection also can depelete zinc and often those on a largely vegetarian diet consume less zinc as well. So some of you guys could actually be running low on zinc and benefit from supplementation.
2. Brain Activities: Sleep and Learning. A combination of zinc, magnesium - yes, this is starting to sound a lot like ZMA - and melatonin has been found in one study to be a potent insomnia cure. (See this link on Sleep Aids for more information.) A couple of our posters on The Peak Testosterone Forum have commented how much taking ZMA helps their sleep and, of course, ZMA is one third zinc. This poster recommended taking it about 40 minutes before bed:
"ZMA ..oh yes I like...not only the zinc as Peak mentioned to help keep T at a max (and help with everything in your body!!) but the magnesium is fantastic for helping to induce sleep. I only have one cap a day usually 40 mins before bed and it definitely makes you sleepy. One cap only equates to 10mg of zinc (about 100% RDA) and 150mg of mag which is only 40% RDA."
So there is evidence that zinc plays a role in sleep quality and/or duration. Zinc affects the brain in other ways as well. For example, one study review pointed out the importance of zinc to learning, memory and neuron maintenance / regeneration: "The highest levels of zinc are found in the hippocampus in synaptic vesicles, boutons, and mossy fibers...Zinc plays an important role in axonal and synaptic transmission and is necessary for nucleic acid metabolism and brain tubulin growth and phosphorylation. Lack of zinc has been implicated in impaired DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis during brain development...Furthermore, in children insufficient levels of zinc have been associated with lowered learning ability, apathy, lethargy, and mental retardation."  I'll just point out that the hippocampus is the center of memory and is involved in some higher order thinking processes as well.
3. Estrogen. Zinc actually inhibits the aromatase enzyme, especially in zinc-depleted individuals, and therefore could decrease estrogen.  (It may also inhibit the conversion of testosterone to DHT, which could help your prostate and hair!) At worst it is another tool in our arsenal to optimize and maintain our estrogen at reasonable levels. And, of course, this may be another reason that zinc is a testosterone booster for some men but not others.
4. Dopamine. Researchers have found that zinc is one of the most important minerals regulating dopamine.  It turns out that zinc is present in your neuron's synapses and plays several major roles in neurotransmission. Zinc is known for "inhibiting the uptake" of dopamine, which means that dopamine stays around in your systems (brain) for a longer period of time. And, yes, more dopamine generally means better sex as I document in my link on Natural Dopamine Increasers . (Dopamine disorders are associated with migraines, Restless Leg Syndrome and other conditions.)
5. Depression. Zinc is a proven depression fighter. Several studies have shown that zinc levels tend to be lower in certain types of patients with depression and, furthermore, supplemental zinc has even been shown to help in treatment (25 mg along with an SSRI).  And, recently, researchers created depression (in animals) by inducing a zinc deficiency.
Of course, there is now a strong link established between Depression and Your Sex Life.
BONUS: Zinc can also significantly increase semen volume, something that some men are concernd about. For other factors, see my link Naturay Ways to Increase Your Semen Volume.
Zinc has some powerful properties that can really help us males. Because of this, it is very easy for to get overly enthusiastic. Zinc is extremely powerful and has a definite clinical range, i.e. you can hurt yourself if you overdo it in the ways listed below. Again, stick to the 1-2 RDA range for zinc.
CAUTION #1: Copper Deficincy: Some experts caution about taking zinc supplementation, because it can lead to a copper deficiency. Copper is critical for the health of your heart and your collagen among other things. It doesn't take much zinc to have a negative effect on your copper metabolism, because the two compete in the intestine for absorption. Researchers have found that it is the zinc to copper ratio that is critical and obviously taking zinc supplementation will affect this ratio significantly.
As an example, the RDA of zinc for an adult male is 11 mg and most zinc supplements have 2-3 times that, i.e. 20-35 mg or so. This is troublesome, because there is a disease (Wilson's Syndrome) where copper accumulates in various tissues. Researchers will actually give supplemental zinc in order to reverse this condition. How much zinc do they give? One study found that only 75 mg daily will quickly start depleting copper.  Remember that this 75 mg is intended to yield results in just 10 days.
Now imagine a guy taking 35 mg of zinc for testosterone for months or years. It is certainly possible that he could experience lowered copper levels and this could potentially lead to elevated inflammation and the steadily increasing hypertension associated with copper deficiency. Again, there is no study showing that this is occurring, but it is certainly possilble.
CAUTION: My HRT clinic, in guys whose estradiol is not too high, will use a combination of zinc (15-30 mg) and copper (2-4 mg) per day to pull down E2 (estradiol) levels a little. Zinc and copper compete and so many experts worry that giving supplemental could lead to copper depletion and inflammation. However, I have some concerns with this, because copper has been implicated in a number of neurological diseases and excesses are hard on neurons. These same experts believe that we are slowly poisoning ourselves in many cases with copper pipes. You'll have to do your own research and decide where you stand on the issue.
CAUTION #2: Neuron Damage. Before you go popping zinc like breath mints, keep in mind that some studies indicate that too much zinc is just as hard on your brain and neurons as too little. Most minerals have a rather tight range and zinc appears to be no exception.
CAUTION #3: Heart Disease. There was a whole theory of heart disease that centered around the correct balance of copper to zinc.  Admittedly, this theory is outdated, but we can still learn something from it: too much zinc can elevate cholesterol levels and possibly contribute to hyperlipidemia. (You do not want too much copper either: it is very hard on the brain. When it comes to essential minerals, moderation and balance are definite keys.)
CAUTION: If you have a medical condition or are on any medications, please discuss any changes with your doctor first. Certain supplements, foods and even juices can alter absorption rates of certain medications for example. Play it safe.
1) Med and Sci in Sports & Exerc,1999, 31:483
2) European J of Clin Nutr, 2009, 63:65-70
3) Intl J Sports Med,2001,22(7)537-543
4) Am J Med Sci, 1993 Apr, 305(4):199-202, "Treatment of Wilson's disease with zinc XII: dose regimen requirements"
5) J Nutr, 1996 Apr, 126(4):842-8, "Dietary zinc deficiency alters 5 alpha-reduction and aromatization of testosterone and androgen and estrogen receptors in rat liver"
6) Neuropharmacology, 2009, 56:531–540, "Zinc regulates the dopamine transporter in a membrane potential and chloride dependent manner"
7) Pol J Pharmacol, 2003, 55:1143–1147, "EFFECT OF ZINC SUPPLEMENTATION ON ANTIDEPRESSANT THERAPY IN UNIPOLAR DEPRESSION: A PRELIMINARY PLACEBO-CONTROLLED STUDY"
8) Journal of Neuroscience Research, 1 April 2005, 80(1):145-149, "Zinc modulation of serotonin uptake in the adult rat corpus callosum"
9) Physiol Behav, 2008 Oct 20, 95(3):365-9, "Zinc deficiency induces depression-like symptoms in adult rats"
10) Am J Clin Nutr July, 1975, 28(7):764-774, "Coronary heart disease: the zinc/copper hypothesis"
11) Biol Psychiatry. 1982 Apr;17(4):513-32, "Zinc, the brain and behavior"
12) Am J Clin Nutr July 1992 vol. 56 no. 1 148-157, "Effects of dietary zinc depletion on seminal volume and zinc loss, serum testosterone concentrations, and sperm morphology in young men"
15) 1) Systems Biology in Reproductive Medicine, 1981, 7(1):69-73, "Effect of Zinc Administration on Plasma Testosterone, Dihydrotestosterone, and Sperm Count"
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