Zinc deficiency is quite common. Unfortunately Zinc deficiency often remains un-diagnosed.
What is Zinc?
is an essential trace element that exists in all cells and is required by thousands of chemical reactions in the body. Zinc is involved in the synthesis, storage and secretion of insulin, as well as insulin action. Zinc is also a strong antioxidant.
Zinc Deficiency Symptoms
Zinc deficiency causes non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, impaired immune function, delayed healing of wounds, diarrhea, hair loss, taste abnormalities, skin ulcers, age-related macular degeneration, delayed puberty, impotence, low testosterone and weight loss. Remember, these symptoms can occur due to many other medical conditions as well.
Zinc level in the blood is the most commonly used test to evaluate Zinc deficiency. However, blood level of Zinc does not necessarily reflects the tissue level. Therefore, Zinc deficiency may be present while the blood test may be within the normal range.
Zinc deficiency is basically a clinical diagnosis. Consult with your doctor in this regard.
Who Is At Risk For Zinc Deficiency?
- Diabetics, due to increased urinary losses of Zinc in urine if diabetes is uncontrolled.
- Elderly, due to decreased intake as well as absorption of Zinc. In addition, the elderly are usually on a number of medications (listed below) that can interfere with Zinc absorption.
- Vegetarians, because plant foods are low in Zinc content to begin with. In addition, Phytates in grains bind Zinc and inhibit its absorption.
- Alcohol consumption, which reduces Zinc absorption from intestines and increases its excretion in the urine.
- Chronic malabsorption conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic diarrhea, intestinal surgery, stomach-bypass surgery. These conditions cause a decrease in the absorption of Zinc, as well as an increase in the loss of Zinc in stools and urine.
- Any chronic illness such as chronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease, malignancy, sickle cell disease, etc.
- Children in poor countries due to malnutrition.
- Pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- Drugs that can lead to Zinc deficiency include:
Thiazide diuretics: the mechanism is increased urinary losses of Zinc.
Antibiotics such as Cipro, Levaquin, tetracyclines. The mechanism is interference with intestinal absorption. Zinc can interfere with the absorption of these antibiotics. Therefore, take these antibiotics on an empty stomach to minimize this interaction.
Iron supplements can interfere with the absorption of Zinc in food. Therefore, take iron between meals, but not with meals.
Zinc Deficiency Linked to Diabetes
Several animal studies have shown Zinc deficiency to be associated with high risk of Type 2 as well as Type 1 diabetes, but there are very few human studies. In one such study (1), researchers investigated the relationship between dietary intake of Zinc, and diabetes and coronary artery disease in 1769 rural individuals and 1806 urban individuals in India. The authors concluded that low dietary zinc was associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and coronary artery disease in urban subjects only.
In another study (2), “Nurses’ Health Study,” in which 82,297 women in the USA were followed for 24 years, researchers concluded that higher Zinc intake may be associated with a slightly lower risk of Type 2 diabetes in women.
In addition to low dietary intake, Type 2 diabetics also have increased urinary loss of Zinc if their diabetes is not controlled.
Can Zinc Supplementation Help Type 2 Diabetes?
In an animal study (3), researchers gave Zinc orally to Type 2 diabetic mice for 4 weeks. They observed a significant improvement in blood glucose level as well as a reduction in insulin resistance. In addition, Zinc treatment caused weight loss and a decrease in high blood pressure (hypertension) in these mice. In another study (4), Zinc supplementation was shown to alleviate diabetic peripheral neuropathy in diabetic rats.
How about human studies? In one study (5), authors analyzed all of the published studies in humans for the effects of Zinc supplementation on diabetes and cholesterol. Compared to a placebo, Zinc supplementation caused a mean drop of 18.13mg/dl in fasting blood glucose, 34.87mg/dl in 2-hour post-meal blood glucose, and a 0.54% reduction in HbA1c (Hemoglobin A1C). In addition, Zinc supplementation caused a mean decrease of 11.19mg/dl in LDL cholesterol. Studies also showed a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressures after Zinc supplementation.
In addition, Zinc is also important to fight off infections (such as common colds, pneumonia, diarrhea), heal wounds and prevent/treat AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration.)
How Much Zinc?
The recommended daily dose of Zinc for adults is 11 mg for males and 8 mg for females. Tolerable upper levels are 40 mg per day, both for males and females.
Foods Rich in Zinc
The best way to get your Zinc is through selecting foods which are not only high in Zinc, but also good for your diabetes.
Seafood: Oysters (cooked), Crab, Lobster
Meats: Beef, lamb, chicken and pork
Plants: wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, nuts, especially cashews
Cooked oysters have the highest quantities of Zinc, followed by wheat germ (roasted), beef, pumpkin seeds and cashews
Please note that whole-grain breads, cereals and legumes contain substances called phytates which bind zinc and inhibit its absorption. Therefore, the best sources of Zinc are animal based foods such as beef, chicken and seafood.
Caution: Breakfast cereals are fortified with Zinc, but these are not good for your diabetes.
If you cannot get enough Zinc through your diet for one reason or another, then consider Zinc supplements. Various forms are available such as Zinc gluconate, Zinc sulfate, and zinc acetate. Zinc lozenges and nasal sprays are available for “common colds.” Avoid nasal sprays, as these can cause lack of smell sensation, which can be permanent.
The label on the bottle will provide dosing information.
Too much Zinc can cause toxicity. Acute toxicity causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping.
Excess Zinc intake (more than 60 mg per day) on a chronic basis can cause copper deficiency, which can manifest as anemia and neurologic symptoms. Therefore, it important to take a combination supplement of Zinc plus Copper
Search Dr.Zaidi’s Articles
Blog Posts Categories
Search High Quality Vitamins
Dr. Zaidi’s Vitamins Categories
Dr. Zaidi’s Vitamins
Glupride multi - Alpha Lipoic Acid-Chromium Picolinate-Cinnamon
Vitamin D3 Supplement - 5000 IU, Chewable
Magnesium Glycinate - The Best Magnesium
- Stress Buster: Ashwagandha and Holy Basil $29.95
Methylcobalamin, 5 MTHF Combination : ZARY
Zinc, Copper Combination
DiaHerbs - Herbs for Diabetes