Zinc as a potential coadjuvant in therapy for type 2 diabetes

Food Nutr Bull. 2013 Jun;34(2):215-21. doi: 10.1177/156482651303400210.


Background: Type 2 diabetes is highly prevalent in populations having high rates of overweight and obesity. It is a chronic condition responsible for long-term severe dysfunction of several organs, including the kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and eyes. Although there are a number of pharmacologic products in the market to treat insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion--the most prominent features of this disease--interventions directed at preserving the integrity and function of beta-cells in the long term are less available. The use of some nutrients with important cellular protective roles that may lead to a preservation of beta-cells has not been fully tested; among these, zinc may be an interesting candidate.

Objective: To assess the potential of zinc supplementation as coadjuvant to diabetes therapy.

Methods: This article reviews the available information on the use of zinc as part of diabetes therapy.

Results: Cellular and animal models provide information on the insulin mimetic action of zinc, as well as its role as a regulator of oxidative stress, inflammation, apoptosis, and insulin secretion. Zinc supplementation studies in humans are limited, although some positive effects have been reported; mainly, a modest but significant reduction in fasting glucose and a trend to decreased glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c).

Conclusions: Zinc supplementation may have beneficial effects on glycemic control. Nevertheless, among the studies considered, the vast majority lasted for 6 months or less, suggesting the importance of conducting long-duration studies given the characteristics of type 2 diabetes as a chronic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / physiology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Zinc / administration & dosage
  • Zinc / physiology
  • Zinc / therapeutic use*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Zinc