The positive effects of zinc on skeletal strength in growing rats

Bone. 2001 Dec;29(6):565-70. doi: 10.1016/s8756-3282(01)00616-0.


The aim of the present study was to assess the skeletal effects of alimentary zinc depletion and supplementation in an animal model of intact, growing rats. The study was planned as a dose-response study. Thirty-six male Wistar rats, 4 weeks old, were divided into three groups of 12 rats each. The rats had free access to a semisynthetic diet with different amounts of zinc added. Group 1 was given a zinc-free diet containing 2 mg zinc/kg, group 2 was given a normal-zinc diet containing 47 mg zinc/kg; and group 3 was given a zinc-supplemented diet containing 60 mg zinc/kg. All animals were killed 4 weeks after initiation of the experiment and the right femora were removed. The biomechanical effects were measured at the following skeletal sites: femoral diaphysis; femoral neck; and distal femoral metaphysis. In addition, static histomorphometry was performed at the middiaphyseal region. Biomechanical testing revealed a significant zinc-induced increase in bone strength at all sites investigated. It also showed that zinc influenced bone strength in a dose-dependent manner except at the distal metaphysis, where there was no significant difference between the group fed normal-zinc diet and the group fed a hyper-zinc diet. Zinc also improved the rates of growth in the rats. The body weights and length of femora increased dose-dependently. Static histomorphometry showed that zinc exerted its main effect on the periosteal envelope, thereby increasing bone area, tissue area, and axial moment of inertia. We conclude that alimentary zinc supplementation in growing rats induces an increase of bone strength in both the femoral neck and the femoral diaphysis. These results further support the view that zinc has a positive effect on bone metabolism which mimics that of growth hormone (GH) or insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Femur / drug effects*
  • Femur / physiology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Zinc / pharmacology*


  • Zinc