zinc supplements for diabetes

A recent study reviewed the benefits of zinc supplements on blood sugar levels in diabetics and pre-diabetics.

Diabetes caused 1.6 million deaths in 2016, and the global prevalence of diabetes almost doubled between 1980 and 2014. Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body cannot regulate the amount of insulin the body needs. Insulin is a hormone necessary for keeping the body’s blood sugar levels in check.  The most common type of diabetes, type 2, results when the body becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes often occurs in those who are overweight and live a sedentary lifestyle.

Diabetes is typically controlled through diet and exercise, as well as insulin injections when needed. Blood sugar can be measured using a blood glucose monitor. Some research studies have suggested a link between the way the body metabolizes zinc and blood sugar, suggesting that a zinc supplement might be beneficial for helping to regulate blood sugar levels.

Researchers from China have recently analyzed results from 32 different studies to determine the potential benefit of zinc supplements for diabetes. Their results were published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers investigated studies carried out and published through February 10, 2019. They looked for studies that were performed on humans; participants were prediabetic, diabetic, or overweight; a zinc supplement was trialed; and the study results had blood sugar data. From the 1,497 studies found, only 36 met these requirements. The researchers pulled data from these 36 studies and assessed the quality of the data and statistically analyzed the data.

To determine whether zinc supplements for diabetes is beneficial, researchers reviewed data on participants’ fasting glucose, which is the blood sugar level first thing in the morning after not eating for at least eight hours. Fasting glucose is a good indicator of how well the body is regulating blood sugar. The researchers determined that blood sugar levels were significantly lower when participants took zinc-only supplements and when participants took zinc with co-supplements.

The researchers also analyzed whether zinc supplements lowered blood sugar levels two hours after a meal. For participants that took zinc-only supplements or a zinc co-supplement, two-hour post-meal blood sugar levels were significantly lower.

Zinc supplements and zinc co-supplements also reduced average blood sugar over two to three months, reduced chronic inflammation, and insulin resistance. Zinc supplements lowered fasting glucose, but they did not see the same effect on fasting glucose when taken as a co-supplement.

Zinc supplements were more beneficial for participants that were diabetic than those that were pre-diabetic. The amount of zinc supplement taken and the length of time it was taken did not change the benefits. However, the formulation of the zinc supplement did have an effect. Those that used inorganic zinc supplements had better fasting glucose levels than those that used organic zinc supplements.

It is important to note that the results may be influenced by participants’ genetics, the study size, demographics of participants, and the zinc supplement formulations. However, overall the study reports benefits of zinc supplements for diabetes.

Written by Rebecca K. Blankenship, B.Sc.

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References:

  1. Wang X, Wu W, Zheng W et al. Zinc supplementation improves glycemic control for diabetes prevention and management: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019;110(1):76-90. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqz041
  2. Diabetes. Who.int. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes. Published 2019. Accessed July 20, 2019.
  3. Why Do We Need Sugar in Our Blood?. Healthfully. https://healthfully.com/21929-need-sugar-blood.html. Published 2019. Accessed July 20, 2019.

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