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Zinc deficiency influences your risk of diabetes

Zinc deficiency influences your risk of diabetesThere is a link between low blood levels of trace elements like zinc and early stages of diabetes, according to Russian research published in Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology. A large number of people are believed to have diabetes without knowing it. One of these early stages of diabetes is insulin resistance, a condition where the cellular uptake of sugar is impaired. Another is metabolic syndrome that includes hypertension, elevated cholesterol levels, and a characteristic apple-shaped figure with too much abdominal fat. The question is, how do we get enough zinc, and why do so many people appear to be deficient in this essential trace element?

Zinc is involved in around 300 different enzymes that control things like the metabolism, nervous system, immune system, and a number of other functions, including blood sugar control. Scientists from the RUDN University and P.G. Demidov Yaroslavi University in Russia have now demonstrated a relation between blood levels of zinc and early stages of diabetes, also known as pre-diabetes.

Overweight people and menopausal women have an increased risk

Women older than 45 years of age have the largest risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as the hormone system is particularly sensitive right after menopause. Overweight increases your risk additionally, especially the type of overweight that is associated with a large waist circumference and an apple-shaped body. The Russian study was conducted on 180 women who were either healthy or pre-diabetic. The study was based on existing data showing how the transfer of insulin signals are influenced by different trace elements such as zinc, chromium, and vanadium.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas. It works by channeling sugar (glucose) into the cells that need it to produce energy. Pre-diabetic people have insulin resistance, which means that their cellular uptake of glucose is impaired. This can either be a result of the insulin not functioning properly, or because there are flaws in the cellular insulin receptors. According to Alexey A. Tinkov, one of the authors of the scientific article from the RUDN University, different environmental toxins like mercury and cadmium may also cause insulin resistance and subsequent type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is spreading with epidemic proportions

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that currently affects around six per cent of the world’s population. Type 2 diabetics have elevated blood sugar levels because of their insulin resistance, and this may cause their pancreas to produce even more insulin.
Zinc is known to play an important role in the pancreatic insulin production, which takes place inside the beta cells, and it is also believed to increase insulin sensitivity in the body’s cells.
According to the new data from the RUDN University, blood levels of zinc in pre-diabetic women drops by around 10 per cent. According to Alexey Tinkov, the study shows that the body’s zinc metabolism plays an essential role in the development of diabetes. Low blood levels of zinc may therefore indicate that there is an increased risk of developing the disease. The Russian scientists also assume that a diet with plenty of zinc or the use of zinc supplements may help counteract insulin resistance and prevent this serious disease.

Insulin resistance and elevated insulin levels may lead to the following:

  • Insufficient glucose metabolism, fatigue, untimely hunger etc.
  • Excess calories are converted into fat
  • Weight increase and/or more abdominal fat
  • Loss of magnesium and increased risk of elevated blood pressure
  • Overproduction of triglycerides in the liver
  • Too much LDL cholesterol
  • A tendency towards inflammation and concurrent free radical production
  • Increased risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes

Our diet lacks zinc, and several factors impair the body’s uptake of the nutrient

Zinc is primarily found in meat, shellfish, dairy products, nuts, kernels, and beans. The body has an easier time with absorbing animal sources of zinc. Sugar, birth control pills, inorganic iron supplements, and the ageing process all impair the body’s uptake of zinc. Although severe zinc deficiencies are rare in our part of the world, moderate and minor zinc deficiencies are common. It is therefore very important for people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes to make sure that they get enough zinc. The nutrient has a role in prevention as well as being part of the actual treatment for these conditions.

Choose organic zinc supplements that the body can absorb and utilize

Many zinc preparations contain inorganic zinc sources like zinc sulfate or zinc oxide, which the body cannot absorb that easily. In contrast, zinc gluconate and zinc acetate are organic zinc sources, which the body can easily absorb and utilize. Therefore, read the label carefully before making your purchase.

The following increases your need for zinc:

  • Overconsumption of sugar, tobacco, alcohol, stimulants, and junk-food
  • Birth control pills and hormonal disturbances
  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Vegetarian food (zinc from plant sources are not absorbed very well)
  • Ageing processes
  • Beginning infections


Scientists prove the role of zinc in type 2 diabetes mellitus. MedicalXpress November 2017

A link between zinc transport and diabetes. MedicalXpress 2013

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


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