Low Levels of This Mineral Increase Your Risk of Diabetes

Wednesday Jan 29 | BY |
| Comments (2)

Zinc and Diabetes

Studies show that having a healthy intake of zinc (from foods like these oysters) can help protect you from diabetes, and may help control blood sugar in those who already have the disease.

We’re smack in the middle of flu season, which means most of us have a little zinc on hand to help shorten any potential colds. This key mineral has another talent, however, in addition to keeping the immune system strong. Studies now show that it can fight diabetes.

Researchers have been studying this connection for years—so much so that it’s surprising we haven’t heard more about it. We decided to spread the word today. If you have diabetes or are at risk for it, here’s why you may want to eat more oysters.

Studies Link Zinc and Diabetes

The connection between zinc and diabetes seems to be related to the whole concept of antioxidants. As you probably know, a number of fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which are thought to help tame “free radicals” in the body that increase risk of disease.

All humans create energy by digesting food and breathing in oxygen. The two together help our cells do the work they need to do. Like any manufacturing plant, the body also produces byproducts as a consequence of manufacturing energy. These byproducts are called “oxidants” or “free radicals,” and they have the ability to damage DNA, proteins, and fats in the body, leading to disease.

Typically we have enough antioxidants in our system—provided by nutrients—to neutralize these threats. Aging, a poor diet, lack of exercise, exposure to toxins, and illness can all throw this balance out of whack, however, which can lead to a downward spiral in our health.

Researchers have found that individuals with diabetes are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress. Studies also showed, surprisingly, that they are often deficient in zinc.

  • Late 1980s, early 1990s: Scientists discover that diabetes is associated with a surprisingly broad range of signs of zinc deficiency, including low blood levels of zinc, lowered taste sensitivity, and low levels of “thymulin,” a peptide that requires zinc for proper function.
  • 1992: An animal and human study discovers that many of the immune system impairments seen in those with diabetes are the same as those seen with zinc deficiencies.
  • 2009: Harvard researchers scientists followed over 82,000 women between the ages of 33 and 60 over the course of 24 years, and concluded that increased intakes of zinc may decrease type-2 diabetes by 28 percent.
  • 2011: Research from the University of Michigan shows how zinc may help regulate blood sugar. In type 2 diabetes, a protein called “amylin” forms dense clumps that shutdown insulin producing cells, causing blood sugar levels to rise. (Amylin is also the protein that forms harmful plaques in Alzheimer’s disease.) Zinc was found to prevent amylin from forming these harmful clumps.
  • 2012: A review of 25 published studies shows that zinc supplementation in patients with diabetes has beneficial effects on blood sugar control and on controlling blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Researchers speculate that oxidative stress and damage to tissues that typically occurs in diabetes could be associated with complications of the disease, and that short-term zinc supplementation may help.
  • 2013: Australian researchers look at data from nearly 9,000 participants for six years. They conclude that those with the highest dietary zinc intake had almost half the odds of developing type 2 diabetes, compared with those who had the lowest intake. They concluded that overall, higher total dietary zinc intake is associated with a lower risk of the disease.
  • 2013: Researchers from Sri Lanka announce a new study looking into the value of zinc supplementation in those with pre-diabetes, to see if it may help bring down blood sugar levels.

Potential Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency

Emily Ho, Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences at the Linus Pauling Institute, states that in addition to its antioxidant activity, zinc plays a critical role in insulin storage, which could be why it affects blood sugar levels. She adds that according to the latest data, up to 12 percent of the U.S. population isn’t getting the recommended dietary intake of zinc. In the elderly, the number is closer to 50 percent—most likely because older people don’t absorb it as well.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the nutrient is 11 mg/day for men, and 8 mg/day for women. Ho states that there is debate about this value, however, and that some health experts don’t think it’s high enough. The tolerable upper level of intake is 40 mg/day for both men and women.

How can you tell if you’re low in zinc? It’s not easy, but there are some potential symptoms, which include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dandruff or hair loss
  • Skin lesions, rashes, dry skin, acne, eczema
  • Hang nails, white spots on fingernails, poor nail growth
  • Increase in premenstrual symptoms
  • Digestive issues, including diarrhea
  • Increased allergy symptoms
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Retarded growth, delayed wound healing, mild anemia (more severe)

Foods Rich in Zinc

If you think you may be a bit low on zinc, check with your doctor, then try to increase your dietary intake of these zinc-rich foods:

  • Seafood, particularly shellfish like crab, oyster, lobster, clams, and mussels
  • Wheat germ
  • Spinach
  • Nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Beef and lamb
  • Cocoa and chocolate
  • Pork & chicken
  • Beans
  • Mushrooms

Do you watch your intake of zinc? Please share your story.

* * *

Moutschen, M. P., Scheen, A. J. & Lefebvre, P. J. (1992) Impaired immune responses in diabetes mellitus: analysis of the factors and mechanisms involved: relevance to the increased susceptibility of diabetic patients to specific infections. Diab. Metab. 18:187-201. http://jn.nutrition.org/external-ref?access_num=1397473&link_type=MED.

Robert A. DiSilvestro, “Zinc in Relation to Diabetes in Oxidative Disease,” The Journal of Nutrition, May 1, 2000; 130(5):1509S-1511S, http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/5/1509S.full.

R. Jayawardena, et al., “Effects of zinc supplementation on diabetes mellits: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, 2012; 4(13), http://www.dmsjournal.com/content/4/1/13.

Samer Salamekh, Jeffrey R. Brender, Suk-Joon Hyung, Ravi Prakash Reddy Nanga, Subramanian Vivekanandan, Brandon T. Ruotolo, Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy. A Two-Site Mechanism for the Inhibition of IAPP Amyloidogenesis by Zinc. Journal of Molecular Biology, 2011; 410 (2): 294 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002228361100550X.

Stephen Daniells, “More zinc may mean less diabetes in women: Study,” Nutraingredients.com, February 19, 2009, http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/More-zinc-may-mean-less-diabetes-in-women-Study.

Qu Sun, et al., “Prospective Study of Zinc Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women,” Diabetes Care, 2009 April; 32(4):629-634, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2660459/.

Khanrin Phungamia Vashum, et al., “Is dietary zinc protective for type 2 diabetes? Results from the Australian longitudinal study on women’s health,” BMC Endocrine Disorders, 2013; 13(40): http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6823/13/40.

Priyanga Ranasinghe, et al., “Zinc supplementation in pre-diabetes: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial,” Trials, 2013; 14(52): http://www.trialsjournal.com/content/14/1/52.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Hi , thanks for sharing this article. Your article is really very informative. I was looking for the same. My mother is having diabetes. It would be great if you tell me which type of fruits should be taken during diabetes. looking to hear from you….

  2. Natalie says:

    Hey Colleen,
    Thanks for sharing such a great info.Chocolate is zinc-rich but isn’t there any risk of using it for diabetes patients?

    Comments are closed for this post.