Zinc and diabetes mellitus: understanding molecular mechanisms and clinical implications

Daru. 2015 Sep 17;23(1):44. doi: 10.1186/s40199-015-0127-4.


Background: Diabetes mellitus is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Studies have shown that Zinc has numerous beneficial effects in both type-1 and type-2 diabetes. We aim to evaluate the literature on the mechanisms and molecular level effects of Zinc on glycaemic control, β-cell function, pathogenesis of diabetes and its complications.

Methods: A review of published studies reporting mechanisms of action of Zinc in diabetes was undertaken in PubMed and SciVerse Scopus medical databases using the following search terms in article title, abstract or keywords; ("Zinc" or "Zn") and ("mechanism" or "mechanism of action" or "action" or "effect" or "pathogenesis" or "pathology" or "physiology" or "metabolism") and ("diabetes" or "prediabetes" or "sugar" or "glucose" or "insulin").

Results: The literature search identified the following number of articles in the two databases; PubMed (n = 1799) and SciVerse Scopus (n = 1879). After removing duplicates the total number of articles included in the present review is 111. Our results show that Zinc plays an important role in β-cell function, insulin action, glucose homeostasis and the pathogenesis of diabetes and its complications.

Conclusion: Numerous in-vitro and in-vivo studies have shown that Zinc has beneficial effects in both type-1 and type-2 diabetes. However further randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled clinical trials conducted for an adequate duration, are required to establish therapeutic safety in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism / drug effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / drug effects
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Zinc / pharmacology
  • Zinc / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Zinc