Most of us know that “health is wealth” and in an ideal world we’d all get the nutrients we need from the food we eat. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible or realistic for many of us and the typical “western diet” is more often than not the go-to for a lot of men. This refined, processed food diet, however, leaves a lot of room for common nutrient deficiencies and health problems as a consequence. After all, lifestyle choices, including diet and exercise, can influence how long a man lives.
A statement released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics1 in 2016 highlighted that while fewer men are smoking daily or drinking at risky levels, more men are currently overweight or obese, which is an increase in 64% since 1995. This is impacted by the types of food men consume and how active they are in their day-to-day lives. One of the biggest contributors to this decline in health is the addition of sugar to our daily diet. The study found that men aged 19 years and over are adding 59 grams (or 14 teaspoons) of white sugar to their diet, every single day.
Ensuring adequate intake of a broad range of vitamins and minerals through a varied diet are important for all aspects of healthcare. However, there are some important nutrients to consider in order to address dietary deficiencies and support men’s health. For example, magnesium, together with zinc and selenium are vitally important for men’s overall health and wellbeing and are an integral part of male physiology.
Magnesium is involved in over 300 bodily processes from playing a part in regulating calcium, potassium and sodium levels, helping prevent conditions like high blood pressure, muscle spasms, headaches and heart disease. In addition, a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that low levels of magnesium may increase your blood levels of C-reactive protein, a key marker of heart disease, heart disease being one of the leading causes of death amongst Australian men.
It is well known that stress plays a major role in illness and disease and magnesium also plays a major role in your stress response. The more stress that’s experienced the higher the requirement for magnesium. Furthermore, low magnesium contributes to increased adrenaline production, which elongates the stress response by inhibiting relaxation. At times like these, supplementing with extra magnesium may be necessary.
As mentioned above, zinc is also an essential mineral that is important for men’s health. And, just like magnesium, is involved in the function of more than 300 enzyme systems. This includes the stress response and mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. It has been reported that nearly 50% of Australian men have experienced a mental health problem with the most common issues experienced by men being anxiety and affective disorders such as depression.
Zinc is also an essential component of male hormone production as well as healthy sperm production, formation and sperm motility. It has been shown that even a marginal zinc deficiency can potentially lead to reduced sperm counts. This is a real concern in modern society and it has been estimated that fertility problems experienced by 40% of couples can be attributed to male reproductive dysfunction.
In addition, zinc is essential for the health of the prostate gland. It is secreted into the seminal fluid as an integral part of sperm release and motility; the prostate contains the highest levels of zinc in any human tissue.
The other major mineral promoting male health is selenium. Just like zinc, low levels of dietary selenium can also have serious consequences for male fertility. For example, selenium is an essential component of the antioxidant selenoenzymes system and plays a significant role in the antioxidant defence system in preventing attack from free radicals against spermatozoa. Selenium is also an essential antioxidant protector for the thyroid gland and works in combination with iodine, an essential mineral for thyroid function.
As well as the type of foods being consumed by men, levels of these minerals in the modern food supply have been progressively going down due to soil depletion, which is another reason men might be getting less in their diet. Resolving these deficiencies and consuming more essential minerals will help improve many aspects of a man’s overall health including more energy, better sleep, less stress, reduced anxiety, a faster metabolism and fat loss, improved sexual performance and sperm production and health, as well as offering protection against common health problems such as heart attacks, mood disorders, poor fertility and low antioxidant status. While there may be benefit from the use of supplements in certain circumstances, it is always important to remember that supplementing won’t counteract poor eating habits. So look for food sources that are naturally rich in these minerals to ensure you are getting the most out of your diet and your supplements.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Men’s health: let’s check. ABS Media Release 2016 [online]. Viewed 25 Jun 2018, [Source]
- Salma U, Gill HK, Keith LG, et al. Male subfertility and the role of micronutrient supplementation: clinical and economic issues. J Exp Clin Assist Reprod 201;8:1. [Full Text]
- Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium - fact sheet for professionals. National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services [online], 2018. Viewed 25 Jun 2018, [Source]
- King DE, Mains AG, Geesey M, et al. Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. J Am Coll Nutr 2005;24(3):166-171. [Abstract]
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The health of Australia’s males [online]. Canberra: AIHW, 2011. Viewed 25 Jun 2018, [Source]
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- Tremellen K. Oxidative stress and male infertility—a clinical perspective. Human Reproduction Update 2008;14(3):243-258. [Abstract]
- Leake A, Chrisholm GD, Habib FK. The effect of zinc on the 5 alpha-reduction of testosterone by the hyperplastic human prostate gland. J Steroid Biochem 1984;20(2):651-655. [Abstract]
- Tinggi U. Selenium: its role as antioxidant in human health. Environ Health Prev Med 2008 Mar;13(2):102-108. [Abstract]
- Yang S. Human security at risk as depletion of soil accelerates, scientists warn [online]. Berkeley News 2015. Viewed 25 Jun 2018, [Source]
- McMillen M. Vitamin and Mineral Supplements for Men [online]. WebMD 2010.Viewed 25 Jun 2018, [Source]