Zinc is an important nutrient that can help the immune system and may reduce the risk of certain illnesses. Some evidence suggests that zinc may be beneficial for the management of type 2 diabetes. Other research notes a potential link between zinc deficiency and diabetes. However, more research is necessary.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting more than 37 million Americans. It occurs when a person does not respond typically to insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar.

Zinc is a nutrient that occurs naturally in many foods, such as beans, meat, and fish. People can also take it as a dietary supplement. It helps support a number of functions in the body, most notably helping the immune system, as it possesses antioxidant properties. While zinc deficiencies are rare in the United States, they may occur if a person’s diet lacks adequate nutrition.

Due to the possible health benefits of zinc, some evidence notes it might have a protective effect against diabetes and may improve the prognosis for those living with this condition.

In this article, we discuss the potential connection between diabetes and zinc, including whether zinc can help manage type 2 diabetes.

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More research is necessary to understand the association between zinc and type 2 diabetes. Some evidence notes that there may be a link between zinc deficiencies and the development of diabetes. Research also suggests zinc supplementation helps reduce risk factors for developing diabetes and assists with managing the condition.

A 2020 study found that people with diabetes are more likely to have a zinc deficiency than those without the condition. The researchers also suggest that individuals with glycemic control issues also led to lower zinc levels. Similarly, a 2021 study also states that low zinc levels are a good indicator of issues with glycemic control in older adults with type 2 diabetes.

As such, this may suggest that zinc supplementation may help with the management of diabetes as an adjunct therapy. A 2022 study indicates that zinc may help due to its antioxidant properties. Relatedly, a 2019 meta-analysis found that zinc supplementation may improve glycemic control, leading the authors to conclude that zinc supplementation could prevent and help manage diabetes.

Another 2019 meta-analysis also suggests that a moderately high dietary zinc intake could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 13%. A 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis indicates that low dose, long-duration zinc intake from supplements and food may reduce risk factors for the condition.

Therefore, zinc could benefit the management of diabetes. However, lower zinc levels may coincide with nonnutritious eating habits that may contribute to the development of the condition. As such, more research is necessary to fully understand the relationship between diabetes and zinc.

While zinc is present in many foods, some research estimates that roughly 17% of people worldwide have a zinc deficiency. Generally, most individuals can consume an adequate amount of zinc from dietary sources. Such foods can include:

  • red meat
  • poultry
  • seafood, such as oysters, crab, and lobster
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • beans
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • dairy products

Zinc is also available in supplements that people can have in addition to dietary sources to ensure a sufficient intake of the nutrient. However, before taking supplements, it may be advisable to seek a doctor’s advice.

It is important for individuals to get an accurate impression of their dietary zinc needs. Although zinc is a very important dietary element, consuming too much can result in zinc toxicity, which can cause problems. A 2022 paper lists the following as possible side effects of excessive zinc intake:

  • gastric irritation
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • gastric hemorrhage

Additionally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) note that a regular excessive intake of 150–450 milligrams a day of zinc may lead to:

  • low copper levels
  • changes in iron function
  • reduced immune function
  • reduced levels of “good,” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol
  • urogenital problems

In addition to its potential beneficial effects on diabetes, evidence notes that zinc may possess many other health benefits.

Evidence notes that the body uses zinc for many different purposes, including wound healing, cell growth, and cell division. Sufficient zinc levels are necessary for a properly functioning immune system and could help prevent severe complications from diseases, such as pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea. Additionally, it is also essential for growth and development.

In some cases, it is possible for an individual to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by implementing certain lifestyle changes. This can include regular exercise and maintaining a moderate weight.

Similarly, a 2020 study notes that incorporating healthy lifestyle choices can also help manage type 2 diabetes or potentially put it into remission. In addition to managing weight and regular physical activity, it recommends eating a nutritious diet, stopping smoking if applicable, and managing stress.

In some cases, a person may also require medications to help them manage the condition. A doctor could recommend suitable medications to help individuals control their blood sugars and delay or prevent the harmful effects of diabetes.

Click here to learn more about controlling type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that can significantly affect an individual’s health. Some research suggests that adequate zinc levels could help prevent the development of diabetes and make the condition easier to manage. However, more research is necessary to fully understand the relationship between zinc and diabetes.

While further research is still necessary, evidence notes that incorporating healthy lifestyle changes, which can include a nutritious diet with sufficient zinc, may help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and assist in managing blood sugars.

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