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Have you experienced infertility, miscarriage or premature labour?

If you have, you may be deficient in ZINC 

It has been estimated that 82% of pregnant women worldwide are likely to have inadequate zinc intakes. Poor maternal zinc nutritional status has been associated with a number of adverse outcomes of pregnancy, including low birth weight, premature delivery, and labour and delivery complications. 

However, not surprisingly, the results of  zinc supplements to mothers have been mixed because they have not been conducted in zinc deficient populations.

ZINC AND SPERM

Semen is rich in zinc, with each ejaculate containing 5 mg one third of the recommended daily nutrient intake. This would imply that it plays an important role in sperm health. Three additional functions of zinc have been discovered apart from its important antioxidant one:

1. The genetic material (DNA chromatin) in the sperm nucleus is tightly wound with special proteins to form an insoluble, stable complex. This condensed structure is important for successful fertilization. Zinc is important for this structure and protects it from breaking down.

2. The high concentration of zinc in semen damps down sperm activity, keeping them in a relatively quiescent state. This lowers their consumption of oxygen and conserves sperm energy. Once within the female reproductive tract, which contains very little zinc, zinc concentrations are rapidly diluted. This causes a sudden increase in sperm activity, speeding them up and acting like a mineral turbo charge.

3. During fertilization, a sperm exposes enzymes in a sac at the sperm head to drill a hole in the outer egg shell through which the sperm can pass. This is known as the acrosome reaction. In many cases of subfertility it seems that large numbers of sperm discharge their enzymes spontaneously before or just after ejaculation. By the time they reach the egg they are no longer capable of penetrating it. This early discharge of the acrosome reaction is linked with a zinc deficiency.

High concentrations of zinc in semen helps to damp down the acrosome reaction in a reversible way. Once zinc concentrations become diluted within the female tract, the acrosome reaction can again occur.

Another recent finding is that zinc deficiency changes the sequence in which seminal secretions are ejaculated. The secretions from the seminal vesicle, which are usually ejaculated last, are released along with the sperm instead.

There are several theories why this happens. Lack of zinc may cause swelling of the prostate gland, which will slow sperm travelling up from the testes. This swelling will also slow the release of prostatic secretions, which are usually the first fluids to be ejaculated.

It is possible that this alteration in the ejaculatory sequence is a survival response to low concentrations of sperm zinc. By mixing the sperm and the relatively zinc-rich seminal vesicle secretions as early as possible, the protective effects of zinc (stabilization of sperm DNA; delaying of acrosome reaction; conservation of energy) are maximized.

Most men do not obtain enough dietary zinc. Those that are highly sexually active may be losing more zinc per day in their semen (5 mg per ejaculation) than they can keep up with in their diet. Men ideally need a minimum of 15 mg zinc from their diet per day

Individuals at risk of zinc deficiency:

Infants and children
Pregnant and lactating (breastfeeding) women, especially teenagers
Patients receiving total parenteral nutrition (intravenous feedings)
Malnourished individuals, including those with protein-energy malnutrition and anorexia nervosa
Individuals with severe or persistent diarrhea
Individuals with malabsorption syndromes, including spruce and short bowel syndrome
Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
Individuals with alcoholic liver disease have increased urinary zinc excretion and low liver zinc levels
Individuals with sickle cell anemia
Older adults (65 years and older)
Strict vegetarians: The requirement for dietary zinc may be as much as fifty percent greater for strict vegetarians whose major food staples are grains and legumes because high levels of phytic acid in these foods reduce the absorption of zinc

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