Zinc, Liver Cancer, Liver Disease, Age-Related Diseases
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a group of conditions where there is an accumulation of excess fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. One type of this disease is called “fatty liver disease.” The prevalence of NAFLD has been rising in the United States, from 15% in 2005 to 25% by 2010, and NAFLD is commonly associated with metabolic comorbidities [meaning NAFLD and these diseases are often seen together], including obesity, type-2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and metabolic syndrome .
Some organizations such as the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimate between 30-to-40% of Americans have NAFLD, so this disease is rather common . If NAFLD progresses, it can turn into nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and NASH can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer . However, research has shown how zinc can both improve liver function and possibly reduce the risk of cancer. In this article, we will be reviewing this research and other benefits of zinc.
Zinc, Liver Cancer, Liver Diseases
In December 2018, researchers published a study entitled “Long-Term Zinc Supplementation Improves Liver Function and Decreases the Risk of Developing Hepatocellular Carcinoma” , and this section will be reviewing that study.
There were 267 patients involved in the study, each having chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B and C, alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver and NASH. This was a controlled study, meaning the subjects were randomly assigned to two groups: a control group who received a placebo with no zinc (71 patients) and zinc group who received two daily doses of 150mg of polaprezinc, each containing 33.3mg of zinc (196 patients). Though the placebo group did not receive any zinc supplementation, the patients did undergo traditional treatment because, after all, they did have a chronic illness.
After three years, the researchers found the supplement group had lower levels of inflammatory markers, and their overall liver function improved. However, participants in the placebo group who did not receive the zinc supplementation experiences deteriorated liver function. Further, the researchers also noted the zinc group, overall, had a lower chance of developing hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer in adults.
The researchers also noted something else interesting: the degree of the zinc’s effectiveness was tightly correlated to the patient’s zinc levels in their blood. While patients with 70 micrograms per deciliter of zinc in their blood had notably lower chances of these complications, patients with levels of 90 micrograms per deciliter or higher had no adverse effects, meaning no negative impact from their chronic liver disease.
The researchers explained this phenomenon. The researchers found when patients are zinc deficient, their hepatic stellate cells may activate, which can promote lipid production, which can increase fat accumulation in the liver.
The researchers concluded, “Zinc supplementation appears to be effective at maintaining liver function and suppressing events and HCC [hepatocellular carcinoma – the most common type of liver cancer] development, especially among patients whose Zn [zinc] concentration is greater than 70 µg/dL [70 micrograms per deciliter]” . The researchers also mentioned that zinc was equally beneficial for individuals with a wide array of chronic liver diseases, including viral hepatitis, alcohol-related cirrhosis, and NASH. This offers a promising natural solution to these liver diseases.
Zinc, Age-Related Diseases
In addition to being beneficial for liver function, zinc has been shown to help with a wide array of age-related diseases. This section will review that literature.
Zinc has a strong role in the immune system. For example, a meta-analysis of seven studies showed 80-92mg per day of zinc supplementation could reduce the length of the common cold by 33% , and another study concluded that oral zinc supplementation might improve immunity and inflammatory responses .
Also, it is known zinc levels typically decline with age , and one study showed zinc supplementation could strengthen the immune system by increasing the activity of T-cells and natural killer cells, which could help fight off infections  .
A 2008 study showed zinc supplementation might help to reduce stress in older adults .
A 2010 study hypothesized zinc deficiency might be a risk factor for pneumonia in older people, and zinc supplementation may reduce the chance of pneumonia .
In a 2013 study entitled “Discovery of Human Zinc Deficiency: Its Impact on Human Health and Disease,” researchers investigated the relationship between zinc deficiency and infection rates. The study concluded that 45mg of zinc per day might decrease infection rates in older adults by 66% .
Further, in researchers in 2013 conducted a study including 4,203 patients and found patients who took 80mg of zinc in addition to vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene experienced decreased vision loss and reduced chances of age-related macular degeneration .
While zinc supplementation offers auspicious results for patients with chronic liver conditions, zinc supplementation may also offer a wide range of benefits to older adults by reducing the chances of several age-related diseases. If you are interested in a highly absorbable zinc supplement, Healthmasters’ Zinc Glycinate is 20mg per capsule. Also, if you are interested in determining the current zinc levels in your blood, talk to your doctor about performing blood tests.
If you have any questions about Healthmasters’ Zinc Glycinate, please call our office at 800.726.1834.