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Man of the moment

We take a look at some key nutrients for men’s health

International Men’s Health Week (IMHW) is celebrated each year in June, with the aim being to increase awareness of male health issues. Led by Men’s Health Network, the campaign takes place around the world and this year will run from 12 to 19 June. It’s hoped that by raising awareness of men’s health issues, men and boys will be encouraged to follow healthier lifestyles and that health issues affecting males can be prevented and detected early. Here, YHL takes a look at some key nutrients that specifically benefit men’s health.


“Vitamin D is produced by the body when our skin is exposed to the sun,” explains Mike Murphy, Registered Nutritional Therapist and Chief Nutritionist with Vitaminology ( “It is essential for almost all aspects of health but especially our bones and our immune system. In men, optimum vitamin D levels help to increase testosterone production and protect the cardiovascular system. In fact, frequent erectile dysfunction can be an early sign of cardiovascular disease and is more common in men who are vitamin D deficient. Sunshine is the best source, so try to get outside for 20 to 30 minutes with some skin exposed between the hours of 11am and 3pm a few times a week. You can also obtain small amounts of vitamin D from certain foods, such as salmon, eggs and mushrooms.”


“Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto) is an overall tonic herb for men’s health,” explains Lily Canetty-Clarke, a NIMH certified medical herbalist ( “It is an aphrodisiac that improves impotence and fertility and is specifically indicated in the treatment of hair loss and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The latter is a problem that occurs in older men (a third of men over 60 and half of men over 80) and involves a non-malignant enlargement of the prostate gland. This causes problems with frequency, flow and the completeness of urination and can significantly reduce quality of life in older men. Saw Palmetto has been shown to improve all of these urinary symptoms. Studies have found that it was just as effective as a drug medication with significantly less adverse side effects reported than the drug, such as ejaculation dysfunction and reduced libido.”


“Zinc is an essential trace mineral that our body needs for healthy immune function, wound healing, our sense of taste and smell, as well as reproductive health,” says Mike Murphy. “In men, zinc is vital for testosterone and sperm production and zinc deficiency can be a factor in infertility, erectile dysfunction and benign prostatic hyperplasia. To boost zinc levels, consider reducing alcohol intake, which depletes zinc, and include zinc-rich foods in the diet. Oysters have the highest level of zinc but other good sources include crab, beef, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts.”


Lycopene, a carotenoid compound found in tomatoes, which gives them their rich red colour, has been found to have numerous benefits for men’s health. Studies have shown that it can help to improve sperm quality and it has also been shown to help with BPH. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant that can help protect the body’s cells from free radical damage, which can lead to diseases like cancer. High tomato consumption has also been linked with improved cardiovascular health through a reduction in LDL cholesterol, homocysteine, platelet aggregation and blood pressure.


Boron is a mineral that is believed to help support the body’s production of testosterone. A 2015 review found that taking a 6mg dose of boron for one a week increased free testosterone levels by nearly 25 per cent. (Free testosterone is unattached to any proteins so is bioavailable.) Boron was also found to reduce indicators of inflammation, such as interleukin and C-reactive proteins, by more than half. Boron supports the metabolism of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, making it essential for strong bones. This trace element is found in foods such as fruits and vegetables, almonds, dates, peanuts, prunes, raisins and soya beans.


“The root of the classic British weed, Nettle, has also been shown to be effective at treating symptoms of urinary discomfort associated with BPH,” explains Lily Canetty-Clarke. “It is thought that nettle root helps by preventing the binding of the sex hormone-binding gloublin to testosterone. This helps to ensure that more free testosterone is available which is the usable testosterone often associated with vitality and energy.” 


“Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) is another fantastic herb for men,” says Lily Canetty-Clarke. “It is an adaptogenic plant that improves the body’s resilience towards stress and is known as a ‘rasayana’ in Ayurvedic traditions, meaning a rejuvenative herb. Ashwagandha is particularly nourishing for male sexual organs and muscles. Studies have shown that it improves fertility by increasing sperm count and motility as well as sexual performance as an aphrodisiac herb. Studies have also shown that men taking Ashwagandha demonstrated a significant increase in muscle mass and strength.”

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