Zinc and Prostate Health

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Published: 06th October 2008
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The importance of the trace mineral, zinc has been well documented for its role in supporting prostate health. The normal human prostate accumulates the highest level of zinc of any soft tissue in the body. Zinc is vital for prostate functions and male hormone activity. Hence, zinc is often referred to as "The Male Mineral".


Studies have shown that Prostate health functions are highly dependent on the adequate availability of zinc. Zinc is required for the production of sperm and seminal fluid. 1 A deficiency  has been associated with impotence and infertility problems. Excessive sexual activity may lead to depletion of zinc stores.


Prostatitis and BPH


Infection and stress lower blood serum levels of zinc and lower their levels in the prostate in particular. In prostatitis, zinc levels are only one-tenth of those in a normal prostate. 2 (Fair and Heston, 1977; Pfeiffer, 1978).


While infection and stress can lead to lower zinc levels, so can age. Zinc levels gradually reduce as men age. 3,4 Researchers have found that Testosterone levels decrease after the age of fifty creating an increase in the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) within the prostate. DHT is a powerful hormone which may be responsible for the overproduction of prostate cells, leading to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). 


It is the opinion of many researchers that Prostate growth that is seen in older men may be related to low zinc levels causing alterations in hormone balance. Zinc is believed to inhibit the activity of 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to its more powerful cousin, dihydrotestosterone. "Stimulation of the prostate gland by dihydrotestosterone contributes to its growth, so reducing levels of this hormone should lead to a reduction in prostate size," says Fouad Habib, Ph.D., a cell biologist at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, Scotland. 


Dr. Irving Bush, M.D., professor of urology at the University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School, senior consultant at the Center for Study of Genitourinary Diseases in West Dundee, Illinois, and former chairman of the Food and Drug Administration panels on gastroenterology, urology and dialysis, did a small study of the use of zinc in treating patients with BPH. Dr. Bush found that 14 of the 19 men experienced shrinkage of the prostate. 


Adequate zinc levels are thought to be essential for maintaining healthy prostate cells. Since zinc deficiency may result in prostate enlargement, zinc is as helpful with enlarged prostates as inflamed ones caused by prostatitis. 


Prostate Cancer


Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men, and it is suspected that most elderly men have some abnormal prostate cells. Cancerous prostates have much less zinc than normal prostates, and several studies have implicated impaired zinc status in the development and progression of prostate malignancy. There is also some evidence that increased dietary zinc is associated with a decrease in the incidence of prostate cancer.


Human cell culture research conducted at the Linus Pauling Institute at the Oregon State University suggests that zinc supplementation may be more helpful in the early stages of cancer development rather than as cancer treatment.


Diet


Zinc is almost non-existent in refined, processed foods. If the soil is low in zinc, fruits and vegetables grown on it will also be deficient. Very few men obtain even the low US RDA of 15 milligrams of zinc a day. Zinc-rich foods include nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, wheat bran, wheat germ, brewer's yeast, onions, molasses, peas, beans, lentils, and gelatin.


Reference:


1.  A.E. Omua, M.K. Al-Azemia, E.O. Kehindeb, J.T. Animc, M.A. Oriowod, T.C. Mathews Faculty of Medicine, Health Sciences Centre, Kuwait University, Kuwait,  Indications of the Mechanisms Involved in Improved Sperm Parameters by Zinc Therapy, Med Princ Pract 2008;17:108-116 (DOI: 10.1159/000112963)


2.  2. Fair, W. R. and Heston, W. "Prostate Inflammation Linked to Zinc Shortage" Prevention 113: June, 1977


3.  Salgueiro MJ, Zubillaga M, Lysionek A, et al. Zinc status and immune system relationship: a review. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2000;76(3):193-205.  (PubMed)


4.Fortes C, Forastiere F, Agabiti N, et al. The effect of zinc and vitamin A supplementation on immune response in an older population. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1998;46(1):19-26.  (PubMed)


5. Leitzmann MF, Stampfer MJ, Wu K, Colditz GA, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, MD, Zinc supplement use and risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 Jul 2;95(13):1004-7,


 


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