Posted on May 29, 2019, 4 p.m.
Incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is increasing in America over the past few decades. It is estimated that up to 40% of all Americans to some degree is living with NAFLD; recent research suggests that zinc may offer valuable ammunition against NAFLD and it’s complications.
NAFLD progresses to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in about 25% of cases, which can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. A study conducted at Osaka-Rosai Hospital, Japan, published in Nutrients shows supplementation with zinc can improve liver function while reducing the risk of cancer.
This controlled clinical study involved 267 chronic liver disease patients, including those with hepatitis B and C, alcohol related cirrhosis of the liver, and NASH. 71 participants received standard treatments including amino acid supplements as controls; and 196 received 150mg of polaprezing containing 33.3 mg of zinc twice a day in addition to standard treatments. After 36 months the zinc group was found to have lower levels of inflammatory markers and improved liver function, while the control group experienced deterioration in liver function.
The zinc group was also found to have lower risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma, and the degree of improvement was found to be closely associated with levels of zinc in the blood. Those with at least 70 microgram per deciliter after 36 months were found to have lower rates of negative events including liver cancer, liver failure, and death; among those with 90 micrograms per deciliter or higher these events did not occur.
This study highlights the value of zinc supplementation for liver disease and the cellular mechanisms behind the benefits such as insufficient zinc in the body may cause activation of hepatic stellate cells which promotes lipid peroxidation resulting in increased fatty accumulation in the liver; and optimal levels of zinc appear to inhibit peroxidation, helping to prevent deposits of fat and liver damage.
Based on their findings the researchers concluded that zinc supplementation safely improved liver pathology and reduced liver cancer, being equally useful for patients with a range of chronic liver diseases including NASH, viral hepatitis, and alcohol related cirrhosis.
Zinc is an essential trace element that helps to carry out a range of functions such as maintaining health of skin and hair, supporting wound healing, and promoting digestion. With it’s anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant properties zinc also boosts the immune system as well as fights disease and infections.
Severe zinc deficiency is rare but marginal dietary zinc deficiency is common; symptoms of deficiency include but are not limited to fatigue, susceptibility to infection, poor concentration, skin disorders, impaired sense of taste, and difficulty in healing wounds.
Zinc plays an important role in maintaining liver function, chronic liver diseases depletes zinc levels in several ways such as affecting appetite, impairing proper absorption of nutrients, and increasing urinary excretion; serum concentration of zinc steadily declines as liver disease progresses.
Women are suggested to need 8 mg of zinc a day, and men 11 mg a day, with a tolerable upper limit of 40 mg a day according to the USDA.
You can increase dietary zinc with healthy amounts of wild caught salmon, cage free eggs, organic chicken, grass fed beef, as well as organic chickpeas, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
A blood test from your doctor can detect if you have a zinc shortfall, in which case supplementation may be recommended, follow the doctors guidelines as excessive intake can cause side effects and interfere with the absorption of copper and other essential minerals.
Materials provided by:
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement