Zinc supplement in diabetes can be very useful to control blood sugar levels, according to numerous studies. In general, diabetics are at a high risk of Zinc deficiency due to a variety of factors discussed in this post. Zinc is a trace mineral that is very important for the normal functioning of the cell.
Can Zinc Supplementation in Diabetes be Helpful?
Both animal and human studies show beneficial effects of zinc supplementation in diabetes. In an animal study (1), researchers gave Zinc to Type 2 diabetic mice for 4 weeks. They observed Zinc was able to lower blood glucose in these diabetic mice. In addition, there was a reduction in insulin resistance, the root cause of Type 2 diabetes. Researchers noticed even more benefits of Zinc supplementation beyond blood sugar levels. There was significant weight loss and a decrease in high blood pressure .
How about human studies on Zinc supplement in diabetes.? In one study (2), authors analyzed 25 trials in humans for the effects of Zinc supplement on diabetes. Out of 25 trials, 22 were in Type 2 diabetes and 3 were in Type 1 diabetes. The effects of Zinc supplement was impressive in Type 2 diabetes as well as Type 1 diabetes. Compared to a placebo, Zinc supplementation caused a mean drop of 18.13 mg/dl in fasting blood glucose, and a reduction of 34.87 mg/dl in 2-hour post-meal blood glucose level. Furthermore, there was a mean 0.54% reduction in HbA1c (Hemoglobin A1C). In addition, Zinc supplementation caused a decrease in LDL cholesterol. Also, there was a significant reduction in blood pressure after Zinc supplementation.
Can Zinc Supplement Prevent the risk of Type 2 Diabetes?
Zinc supplement may be able to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes. In a landmark study (3), “Nurses’ Health Study,” 82,297 women in the USA were followed for 24 years. At the end of the study, researchers concluded that higher Zinc intake may be associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes in women.
Does Zinc Deficiency Increase the Risk of Diabetes?
Zinc plays an important role in the production of insulin. Therefore, Zinc deficiency may increase your risk of developing diabetes. But is there any scientific evidence to this effect? The answer is yes. Several studies show Zinc deficiency to be associated with high risk of Type 2 as well as Type 1 diabetes.. For example, in one study (4), researchers investigated the relationship between dietary intake of Zinc, and diabetes 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.
Zinc Deficiency in Diabetes
Diabetics are at high risk of Zinc deficiency because there is an increased loss of Zinc in the urine if your diabetes is uncontrolled. In addition, older diabetics are even at higher risk as they consume less Zinc-rich foods such as meats, seafood and and nuts. Furthermore, there is less absorption of Zinc as we get older. To make the matter worse, diabetics are usually on a number of medications (listed below) that can interfere with Zinc absorption.
- Thiazide diuretics: the mechanism is increased urinary losses of Zinc.
- Antibiotics such as Cipro, Levaquin, tetracyclines. The mechanism is interference with intestinal absorption. Conversely, 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.
Vegetarian diabetics are at particularly high risk of Zinc deficiency because plant foods are low in Zinc content to begin with. In addition, phytates in grains bind Zinc and inhibit its absorption.
Alcohol consumption is another factor that can lead to zinc deficiency. It reduces Zinc absorption from the intestines and increases its excretion in the urine.
Symptoms Of Zinc Deficiency
Zinc deficiency can cause the following symptoms:
- Impaired immune function with an increased risk of infections including cold, flu and COVID-19
- Hair loss
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Low testosterone
- Skin ulcers
- Delayed healing of wounds
- Loss of appetite
- Taste abnormalities
- Unintentional weight loss
- Delayed puberty
Remember, these symptoms can occur due to many other medical conditions as well.
How to Diagnose Zinc Deficiency?
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.
How Much Zinc for Diabetics
The daily dose of Zinc for diabetes appears to much more than the usual recommended dose of about 9-10 mg per day, which is for the individuals who are otherwise healthy. We use a daily dose of 50 mg of Zinc along with 2 mg of Copper at the Jamila Diabetes And Endocrine Medical Center. At this dose of Zinc, we have seen amazing results and no side-effects.
Good Dietary Sources Of 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.
- Nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds, nuts, especially 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. Cooked oysters have the highest quantities of Zinc, followed by beef, pumpkin seeds and cashews.
Caution: Breakfast cereals are fortified with Zinc, but these are obviously not good for your diabetes.
Many scientific studies show that Zinc Supplementation can lower blood sugar in diabetics. In general, diabetics are at a high risk of Zinc deficiency due to a variety of reasons.
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1.Adachi Y1, Yoshida J, Kodera Y, Kiss T, Jakusch T, Enyedy EA, Yoshikawa Y, Sakurai H. Oral administration of a zinc complex improves type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndromes. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2006 Dec 8;351(1):165-70.
- Jayawardena R1, Ranasinghe P, Galappatthy P, Malkanthi R, Constantine G, Katulanda P. Effects of zinc supplementation on diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2012 Apr 19;4(1):13. doi: 10.1186/1758-5996-4-13.
- Sun Q1, van Dam RM, Willett WC, Hu FB. Prospective study of zinc intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Diabetes Care. 2009 Apr;32(4):629-34
- Singh RB1, Niaz MA, Rastogi SS, Bajaj S, Gaoli Z, Shoumin Z. Current zinc intake and risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease and factors associated with insulin resistance in rural and urban populations of North India. J Am Coll Nutr. 1998 Dec;17(6):564-70.