A Deficiency in Zinc Kills Female Sex Drive
Approximately 40% of American women experience Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD) at some point in their lives. But according to a newer study, a simple zinc supplement could rev their sex drive back up.
First, FSD is characterized by one or more of these symptoms:
- Low sexual desire – Not wanting to do the deed.
- Sexual arousal disorder – The willingness for sex might be intact, but the ability to become aroused (self-lubricate) is impaired.
- Orgasmic disorder – Inability to reach climax.
- Sexual pain disorder – Vaginal contact or stimulation causes pain.
If you were to ask a psychologist, marital counselor, or sex therapist about the cause(s) of FSD, they'd likely give a litany of reasons, most of which probably have to do with the shortcomings of the patient's partner. They might offer the following suggestions as a remedy:
- Pull out the romance.
- Give frequent non-sexual hugs.
- Be creative and playful, whether that involves role-playing, dirty talk, dressing up like the Dark Knight, or something kinkier.
- Vacuum occasionally. In other words, share domestic chores.
- Don't get right to doing the deed. Meander. Take in the sights. Loll about the hills. Roll around in the grass. Stroke the flower petals.
- And wash that thing.
Ask a doctor, however, and they might suggest that problems stem from low estrogen, low testosterone, or, more likely, a combination of the two.
There are various possible physiological causes behind low testosterone and low estrogen in females, chief amongst them plain old aging and menopause. However, plenty of post-menopausal women never experience FSD, while plenty of younger women do.
One possible cause of FSD is a simple insufficiency in the mineral zinc, and that was precisely the theory that researchers decided to test in a well-designed study (1).
I'll tell you straight-out that the study involved menopausal women (as they're more likely to suffer from FSD), but the studies might well apply to younger females, too, as a deficiency is a deficiency, no matter what the age.
The researchers found 116 post-menopausal women who had serum zinc levels of below 62 micrograms (anything under 60 is considered a deficiency) and who all scored low on the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI).
Representative questions of the FSFI are as follows:
- Over the last four weeks, how often did you feel sexual desire or interest?
- Over the last four weeks, how often did you become lubricated (wet) during sexual activity or intercourse?
- Over the last four weeks, when you had sexual activity or intercourse, how often did you reach orgasm (climax)?
The answers are given a point value and summed up to obtain six "domain" scores and an overall score. If a woman scores below a threshold of 26.55, she's classified as having Female Sexual Dysfunction.
The women were divided into two groups. One group took a daily placebo for 6 weeks while the other group took a daily capsule containing 25 mg. of elemental zinc.
The testosterone levels of women taking the zinc supplement nearly doubled. The average score of the FSFI soared from 19.23 to 31.91. And, as it often does in men, hemoglobin and hematocrit levels rose too, but not to the point of being a problem (elevated levels of those two blood values have been associated with an increase in cardiovascular events).
The strange thing is that researchers around the world can't prove a direct relationship between testosterone and female sex drive, yet there it is, in multiple studies. Testosterone levels increase and so does female arousal.
It is a fact, though, that low(er) levels of estrogen can negatively affect female sex drive, along with being a cause of poor vaginal lubrication. But, since aromatase enzymes act on testosterone to convert it to estradiol (the most potent form of estrogen), the increased levels of estrogen, courtesy of additional testosterone, might help explain the testosterone-libido connection.
However, I ran into a problem trying to figure out exactly how zinc elevates testosterone in women. It's true that zinc is involved in several hundred enzyme reactions in the body, one or more of which occur in the Leydig cells found in the testicles of males. Sufficient levels of serum zinc ensure that the Leydig cells pump out adequate amounts of testosterone.
But women don't have Leydig cells or, of course, testicles, so how does taking zinc lead to higher levels of testosterone?
I Googled the topic so hard and furious that the lights in my office dimmed. I finally found my Eureka moment in an obscure Spanish medical journal (2):
"In the ovaries of adult women, there are cells that are very similar to Leydig cells, the ovarian hilus cells (OHC), which also produce testosterone... The morphological and immunohistological findings were like those described for testicular Leydig cells. Therefore, OHC can be considered ovarian Leydig cells (OLC)."
There it is (maybe). Having sufficient serum zinc levels in men and women ensure that the male Leydig cells
and their female counterpart produce optimal levels of testosterone.
If you're a woman (or man) and you feel your sex life isn't where you want it to be, you can try to get more zinc in your diet by regularly eating shellfish, eggs, seeds, or nuts, but the easier and probably less expensive way is to take a zinc supplement.
Biotest offers a couple of options. The first is ZMA®. Each serving contains 30 mg. of zinc and 450 mg. of magnesium, which has also been shown to elevate testosterone levels, at least in males (3).
We also produce a broad-spectrum mineral supplement, ElitePro™, that consists of seven different essential minerals in chelated form (for superior absorption), one of which is zinc (30 mg.).
One caveat, though: The idea behind taking zinc or magnesium is to bring testosterone levels up to normal or high normal; it won't elevate them to supraphysiological levels. To achieve that, you'd have to administer actual testosterone in the form of injections, creams, or subdermal pellets.
That may be an option for you, but you might as well take the easier and less expensive way first.
- Mazaheri L et al. Effect of Zinc on Testosterone Levels and Sexual Function of Post-menopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Sex Marital Ther. 2021 Jul;47(8):804-813.
- Carrasco-Juan JL et al. Ovarian Leydig cells (OLC): A histomorphological and immunohistochemical study. Histol Histopathol. 2017 Oct;32(10):1089-1097. PubMed.
- Cinar V et al. Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Apr;140(1):18-23. PubMed.