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Zinc has potential in a whole new type of therapy for diabetics

Zinc has potential in a whole new type of therapy for diabeticsType 2 diabetes is spreading like a bushfire with many people unaware that they have the disease. Diabetes increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, blood clots, and early death. A group of scientists from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland has looked closer at the different processes and studied the trace element zinc and its ability to improve the outcome of therapy by preventing dangerous blood clots. The new study is published in the Chemical Science journal. Zinc deficiencies are rather common and type 2 diabetes in itself increases the need for this nutrient.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by insulin resistance with impaired glucose uptake in the cells. The classic symptoms of the condition are constant hunger, enormous thirst, and frequent urination. In the long run, elevated blood glucose levels can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver, hyperlipidemia, heart disease, stroke, diabetic retinopathy, kidney failure, and impaired blood flow to the appendages with the risk of amputations. Diabetes is also associated with oxidative stress and chronic low-grade inflammation that can damage cells and the circulatory system. Type 2 diabetes is believed to reduce a person’s life expectancy by 10 years especially because of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Zinc prevents blood clots and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease

The scientists from University of St. Andrews in Scotland now have a much better understanding of why zinc can improve the outcome of type 2 diabetes therapy, which they got by studying the blood and blood platelets of type 2 diabetics. The primary function of blood platelets is to cause the blood to coagulate to prevent bleeding. However, diabetics and overweight people have a tendency to produce too many blood platelets and that increases their risk of blood clots and damage to the blood vessel walls. For that reason, diabetics have a three times greater risk of hearts attacks, stroke, and vascular dementia that are caused by disturbances in the cerebral blood flow or in the blood vessels in the brain.
The team of scientists looked carefully at zinc’s role in the different processes. Zinc is a trace element that is involved in hundreds of different body functions, one of which is to regulate coagulation processes and platelet aggregation following injuries and bleeding. In some patients with underlying health problems such as type 2 diabetes or overweight, disproportionate platelet aggregation may occur. This can lead to serious health conditions such as blood clots and stroke.
The scientists observed that type 2 diabetics have reduced transportation of zinc in their blood. This may be because of the elevated blood lipid levels that prevent the free flow of zinc through the circulatory system. That way, zinc is prevented from interacting with the platelet-activating proteins which increases the risk of blood clotting.
Although more scientific research is needed, the scientists believe their study can help explain why some people develop cardiovascular disorders.
They also hope their new discovery may contribute to the development of novel therapeutic strategies that can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes and other conditions characterized by a disrupted lipid metabolism and excess platelet production. The new study is published in Chemical Science.

Zinc’s other functions in connection with blood sugar and type 2 diabetes

We also need zinc to help us convert inactive proinsulin into active insulin that helps glucose reach the cells. Zinc is even part of the important SOD (superoxide dismutase) antioxidant that counteracts oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes. Oxidative stress causes cholesterol to oxidize, and the oxidized cholesterol then gets embedded in the vessel walls where it can develop into atherosclerosis. Therefore, zinc has a number of different therapeutic properties and great potential in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even as a possible therapeutic agent.

  • Zinc is primarily found in oysters, liver, meat, eggs dairy products, nuts, seeds, kernels and beans
  • Zinc from animal sources has better absorption than zinc from plant sources

Widespread zinc deficiency and effective supplements

Zinc deficiency is primarily a result of unhealthy eating habits and lack of animal protein but it can also be a due to overconsumption of iron, calcium, and alcohol. Diabetes, ageing processes, celiac disease, various types of medicine, and birth control pills can also increase the need for zinc.
The daily reference intake (RI) for zinc is 10 mg (in Denmark). The European Food Safety Authority has established a 25 mg per day safe upper level for adult zinc intake.
Many zinc supplements contain inorganic zinc sources such as zinc sulfate or zinc oxide that are not absorbed all that well in the body, whereas organic sources like zinc gluconate and zinc acetate have much better absorption. Always study the label carefully.

More information about supplements and new dietary guidelines for diabetics

In the following article on this site, you can read more about type 2 diabetes and other nutrients that have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, the cholesterol balance, the circulatory system, and weight control. You can also read more about the new dietary guidelines that call for reduced consumption of carbohydrate and higher intake of protein and healthy fats.

»Blood sugar, diabetes, and supplements«


University of St Andrews. Zinc could be key to new diabetes treatments. MedicalXpress. March 1, 2021

Kyria Jayanne et al. Antioxidant role of zinc in diabetes mellitus. World Journal of Diabetes. 2015

Robert H. Lustig. Sickeningly Sweet: Does Sugar Cause Diabetes? Yes. Canadian Journal of Diabetes. 2016

Pernille Lund. Sådan får du styr på dit blodsukker og din vægt. Ny videnskab 2013

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