Background: Animal studies have shown that zinc intake has protective effects against type 2 diabetes, but few studies have been conducted to examine this relationship in humans. The aim of this study is to investigate if dietary zinc is associated with risk of type 2 diabetes in a longitudinal study of mid-age Australian women.
Methods: Data were collected from a cohort of women aged 45-50 years at baseline, participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. A validated food frequency questionnaire was used to assess dietary intake and other nutrients. Predictors of 6-year incidence of type 2 diabetes were examined using multivariable logistic regression.
Results: From 8921 participants, 333 incident cases of type 2 diabetes were identified over 6 years of follow-up. After adjustment for dietary and non-dietary factors, the highest quintile dietary zinc intake had almost half the odds of developing type 2 diabetes (OR = 0.50, 95% C.I. 0.32-0.77) compared with the lowest quintile. Similar findings were observed for the zinc/iron ratio; the highest quintile had half the odds of developing type 2 diabetes (OR = 0.50, 95% C.I 0.30-0.83) after multivariable adjustment of covariates.
Conclusions: Higher total dietary zinc intake and high zinc/iron ratio are associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women. This finding is a positive step towards further research to determine if zinc supplementation may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.