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The Effects of Zinc Deficiency in Men

Zinc plays an important role in men's health. According the Linus Pauling Institute, zinc functions in growth and development, the immune response, neurological function and reproduction 1. This essential trace element is ubiquitous in cellular metabolism, and zinc-dependent enzymes are found in all known classes of enzymes. Zinc also helps to stabilize the structure of proteins and cell membranes, and regulate gene expression and DNA function. Consequently, a deficiency in zinc can contribute to a number of health problems in men.

Impaired Immune System Function

Zinc is required for healthy immune function. According to the National Institutes of Health, zinc deficiency impairs lymphocytes (immune cells) and depresses the immune system. Depressed immunity is associated with increased susceptibility to infection.


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Male hypogonadism means that the testicles do not produce enough testosterone and can result in impaired reproductive functioning, sterility, decreased muscle mass, osteoporosis, fatigue and other symptoms. Zinc plays an important role in male reproductive health due to its role in the development, metabolism and release of sex hormones.

Impaired Exercise Performance

A study published in the May 2005 "Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that low dietary zinc was responsible for impairing the cardiorespiratory and metabolic functions of men during exercise 2. In response to a graded exercise test, the study participants on a low-zinc diet fatigued quickly and experienced increased heart and breathing rates as well as a decreased capacity for oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide output.

Poor Appetite

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Loss of appetite is an early symptom of zinc deficiency. This occurs because of the crucial role of zinc in an enzyme that maintains your senses of smell and taste. Inadequate levels of zinc impede the function of this zinc-dependent enzyme.

Skin Disorders

Zinc is an important component in the growth, development and immunity of healthy tissue. Inadequate amounts of dietary zinc can manifest as skin rashes, acne, lesions, dry or rough skin and wounds that are resistant to healing.

Mental Lethargy

Zinc deficiency impairs brain function, including memory and problem-solving ability. Improved brain development and neuropsychological performance following zinc supplementation has been documented in people with low dietary zinc, according to a study published in the "Journal of Nutrition."