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What is the link between zinc and type 2 diabetes?

Zinc is an important nutrient that can help the immune system and reduce the risk of certain diseases. Some evidence suggests that zinc may be beneficial for the management of type 2 diabetes. Other research notes a potential link between zinc deficiency and diabetes. However, further research is needed.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting over 37 million Americans. It occurs when a person usually does not respond to insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar.

Zinc is a naturally occurring nutrient in many foods, such as beans, meat, and fish. People can also take it as a dietary supplement. It helps support a number of functions in the body, including helping the immune system, as it has antioxidant properties. Although zinc deficiencies are rare in the United States, they can occur if a person’s diet lacks adequate nutrition.

Due to the possible health benefits of zinc, there is some evidence that it may have a protective effect against diabetes and improve the prognosis for people with this condition.

In this article, we discuss the potential link between diabetes and zinc, including whether zinc can help manage type 2 diabetes.

More research is needed to understand the association between zinc and type 2 diabetes. Some evidence indicates that there may be a link between zinc deficiencies and the development of diabetes. Research also suggests that zinc supplementation helps reduce risk factors for developing diabetes and helps manage the disease.

A study 2020 found that people with diabetes are more likely to have a zinc deficiency than those without. The researchers also suggest that people with issues with blood sugar control also caused lower zinc levels. Similarly, a 2021 study also indicates that low zinc levels are a good indicator of problems with blood sugar control in older people with type 2 diabetes.

As such, this may suggest that zinc supplementation may help in the management of diabetes as an adjunctive treatment. A 2022 study indicates that zinc may help due to its antioxidant properties. In the same vein, a Meta-analysis 2019 found that zinc supplementation can improve glycemic control, leading the authors to conclude that zinc supplementation can prevent and help manage diabetes.

Another meta-analysis from 2019 also suggests that a moderately high dietary zinc intake may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 13%. A 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis indicates that low-dose, long-term zinc intake from supplements and foods may reduce disease risk factors.

Therefore, zinc could benefit the management of diabetes. However, lower zinc levels may coincide with non-nutritive eating habits that may contribute to disease development. As such, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between diabetes and zinc.

Although zinc is present in many foods, some research estimates that approximately 17% of people in the world have a zinc deficiency. Generally, most individuals can consume an adequate amount of zinc from dietary sources. Such foods may include:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • seafood, such as oysters, crab, and lobster
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • Beans
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • dairy products

Zinc is also available in supplements that people may have in addition to food sources to ensure adequate intake of the nutrient. However, before taking any supplements, it may be advisable to seek the advice of a doctor.

It is important for individuals to have a clear idea of ​​their dietary zinc needs. Although zinc is a very important dietary element, consuming too much of it can lead to zinc toxicity, which can cause problems. A paper 2022 lists the following side effects of excessive zinc intake:

  • gastric irritation
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • gastric bleeding

Additionally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that regular excessive consumption of 150–450 milligrams a day of zinc can lead to:

  • low copper levels
  • changes in iron function
  • reduced immune function
  • reduced levels of “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol
  • urogenital problems

In addition to its potential beneficial effects on diabetes, evidence indicates that zinc may possess many other health benefits.

Evidence indicates that the body uses zinc for many different purposes, including wound healing, cell growth and cell division. Sufficient levels of zinc are necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system and could help prevent serious complications from diseases such as pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea. Moreover, it is also essential for growth and development.

In some cases it is possible for an individual to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by implementing certain lifestyle changes. This may include regular exercise and maintaining a moderate weight.

Likewise, a study 2020 notes that incorporating healthy lifestyle choices can also help manage type 2 diabetes or potentially put it into remission. Along with weight management and regular physical activity, he recommends eating a nutritious diet, quitting smoking when appropriate, and managing stress.

In some cases, a person may also require medications to help them manage the condition. A doctor might recommend appropriate medications to help individuals control their blood sugar levels and delay or prevent the harmful effects of diabetes.

Click here to learn more about controlling type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a common disease that can significantly affect an individual’s health. Some research suggests that adequate levels of zinc may help prevent the development of diabetes and make the disease more manageable. However, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between zinc and diabetes.

Although more research is still needed, evidence indicates that incorporating healthy lifestyle changes, which may include a nutritious diet with enough zinc, can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and manage blood sugar.