The association between plasma zinc concentrations and markers of glucose metabolism in adults in Cameroon

Br J Nutr. 2023 Oct 14;130(7):1220-1227. doi: 10.1017/S0007114523000223. Epub 2023 Jan 25.


An abnormal Zn status has been suggested to play a role in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. However, epidemiological studies of the relationship between plasma Zn concentrations and diabetes are sparse and inconclusive. We aimed to investigate the association between plasma Zn concentrations and glycaemic markers (fasting glucose, 2-h glucose and homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance) in rural and urban Cameroon. We studied 596 healthy adults (63·3 % women) aged 25-55 years in a population-based cross-sectional study. The mean plasma Zn concentration was 13·7 ± 2·7 µmol/L overall, with higher levels in men (14·4 ± 2·9 µmol/l) than in women (13·2 ± 2·6 µmol/l), P-value < 0·0001. There was an inverse relationship between tertiles of plasma Zn and 2-h glucose concentrations (P-value for linear trend = 0·002). The difference in 2-h glucose between those in the highest tertile of plasma Zn compared to the lowest was -0·63 (95 % CI - 1·02, -0·23) mmol/l. This remained significant after adjusting for age, sex, smoking status, alcohol intake, education level, area of residence, adiposity and objectively measured physical activity -0·43(-0·82, -0·04). Similar inverse associations were observed between plasma Zn concentrations and fasting glucose and homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance when adjusted for socio-demographic and health-related behavioural characteristics. The current findings of an inverse association between plasma Zn concentrations and several markers of glucose homeostasis, together with growing evidence from intervention studies, suggest a role for Zn in glucose metabolism. If supported by further evidence, strategies to improve Zn status in populations may provide a cheap public health prevention approach for diabetes.

Keywords: Africa; Glycaemia; Insulin resistance; Plasma Zn.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cameroon / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2*
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Zinc


  • Blood Glucose
  • Zinc
  • Glucose
  • Insulin