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Does Zinc Increase Testosterone?

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown, MD

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 06/03/2022

Updated 04/13/2024

Zinc — a famously important part of the marketing for some daily vitamins, and a vitamin-level supplement that has been touted by experts for years.

You may have heard zinc mentioned in relation to medical concerns like low sex drive and low testosterone, and for good reason: there are many links saying that zinc can have important effects on those issues, which may greatly affect your quality of life.

But just because zinc is an essential mineral doesn’t mean it’s a wonder drug for your sexual function.

If you’re suffering from low T, zinc may be the help you’re looking for, but to understand who it will and won’t help, we first need to understand some basics about zinc’s purpose in your body.

Zinc is an element, and it’s also a medication used for several purposes. Zinc supplements are important in the treatment of diarrhea, for example. In fact, the World Health Organization has warned of a global risk of zinc deficiency and named zinc as an essential treatment in the management of diarrhea — one that could help reduce child mortality rates.

But zinc is not all about your poop. In fact, it’s an important tool in the function of some organs, as well as part of your antibody response.

Because of this, healthy levels of zinc are important to child development — in addition to keeping immune function up, it’s also important for height and weight gain, as well as sexual development.

Zinc deficiency is a serious problem that can cause skin issues, reduce wound healing or can cause digestive problems just like iron deficiency and copper deficiency.

But overdosing on zinc is rather difficult — the average adult can tolerate 40 mg of zinc per day — and experts largely consider it nontoxic.

The big problems, which can affect every part of your life, come when you don’t have enough of it. We need about 11 milligrams of zinc, but the human body doesn’t produce zinc, so you can’t really keep your zinc levels up without some external source of zinc, such as food sources or a dietary supplement. That’s why it’s important to look for foods with zinc, like meat and other protein-rich sources.

Adequate intake of zinc keeps you alive and healthy — and it may help your testosterone levels, too.

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Zinc and testosterone are definitely related, and that’s evident from studies. It’s well established that severe and moderate zinc deficiencies are associated with hypogonadism —a low testosterone condition — in men.

Zinc is an important part of the male reproductive system and the endocrine system, which is the messenger system that regulates hormones. One of these hormones is, of course, testosterone.

One study called it an essential element in male fertility, specifically for the production of sperm. Zinc plays a key role in the fertility, production and quality of sperm for men. It also possesses antioxidant properties, protecting the system from oxidative stress.

Perhaps most importantly, zinc is considered a hormone balancer because of its role in the endocrine system, which regulates sex hormones. In that capacity, it plays an important role in testosterone production, the function of the prostate and prostate gland health — all super-important for your sexual health.

One study from 1996 — though we’ll caveat it had a very small sample size —looked at men aged 20 to 80, and found that men with a dietary zinc restriction saw a significant decrease in the level of testosterone in their blood.

Experts recommend supplemental zinc for the treatment of hypogonadism, and some research shows that a dose of 220 mg of zinc sulfate (which delivers about 50 mg of zinc to the body) twice a day is enough to safely steer hypogonadism out to sea and boost those testosterone levels back to normal.

Still, there’s caution to be had here. As recently as 2020, the body of evidence in the space did not suggest that zinc was a cure for all types of hypogonadism or all low testosterone issues.

What that means is that, unless you know your zinc levels are deficient, it might make more sense to take a holistic approach to testosterone health.

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Testosterone levels can be boosted in a variety of ways, though diet, medication, habits, lifestyle changes and supplements.

Foods and Dietary Testosterone Boosters

Research shows that many different types of protein sources, dairy products and oils can be natural testosterone boosters. Oysters, tuna, coconut, olive oil, milk, honey, whey protein, eggs and even garlic can all increase testosterone levels when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Meanwhile, obesity and eating an unhealthy diet high in sugar and carbs and low in vegetables are both linked to low testosterone levels and hypogonadism — just another reason to make sure you’re keeping a healthy weight and eating your leafy greens.

Want to know more about the foods that can help out? Read our list of testosterone boosting foods.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Prescription testosterone replacement therapy may be an effective option for men with severely low testosterone levels. This testosterone therapy can be delivered in a variety of ways, from intranasal sprays and implants to capsules, gels and even patches.

If you think testosterone replacement therapy might be for you, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider and make sure you stick to prescription therapies. Over-the-counter and other non-prescription testosterone can be ineffective at best and are often even dangerous.

Learn more about testosterone replacement therapy.

Supplements

Zinc supplements aren’t the only supplements that may boost your levels of testosterone and sperm count. In addition to the benefits of zinc, clinical studies have shown that vitamin D, magnesium, d-aspartic acid and other supplements may have benefits for your sexual health.

Learn more from our blog about strategies for boosting your testosterone.

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A supplemental mineral is probably only going to benefit you in treating a condition like testosterone deficiency if you’re deficient in that vitamin or mineral. In the big picture, testosterone deficiency isn’t a one-solution problem, because it’s not a one-cause problem. 

A lot of other conditions and health issues can have an impact on your healthy testosterone levels, and it’s best not to try to self-diagnose or self-treat low T issues.

Instead, you’re better off talking to a healthcare professional about your concerns and taking their recommendations.

Healthcare providers are trained to help you root out the central cause and address the problem itself, not just symptoms. And while they may indeed have you add some zinc to your life, they may also direct you to one of the other pathways to better testosterone health we mentioned above.

If you’re experiencing (or think you’re experiencing) low testosterone levels, talk to a healthcare professional today and get the right treatment for you.

6 Sources

  1. Fallah, A., Mohammad-Hasani, A., & Colagar, A. H. (2018). Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men's Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization. Journal of reproduction & infertility, 19(2), 69–81. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010824/.
  2. Rabinovich D, Smadi Y. Zinc. [Updated 2021 May 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547698/.
  3. Prasad, A. S., Mantzoros, C. S., Beck, F. W., Hess, J. W., & Brewer, G. J. (1996). Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 12(5), 344–348. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8875519/.
  4. Fallah, A., Mohammad-Hasani, A., & Colagar, A. H. (2018). Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men's Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization. Journal of reproduction & infertility, 19(2), 69–81. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010824/.
  5. Santos, H. O., & Teixeira, F. J. (2020). Use of medicinal doses of zinc as a safe and efficient coadjutant in the treatment of male hypogonadism. The aging male : the official journal of the International Society for the Study of the Aging Male, 23(5), 669–678. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30767598/.
  6. Hu, T. Y., Chen, Y. C., Lin, P., Shih, C. K., Bai, C. H., Yuan, K. C., Lee, S. Y., & Chang, J. S. (2018). Testosterone-Associated Dietary Pattern Predicts Low Testosterone Levels and Hypogonadism. Nutrients, 10(11), 1786. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266690/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown, MD

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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