Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 188, Issue 1, pp 177–188 | Cite as

Nutritional Effects of Zinc on Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes: Mechanisms and Main Findings in Human Studies

  • Manuel RuzEmail author
  • Fernando Carrasco
  • Pamela Rojas
  • Karen Basfi-fer
  • Maria Catalina Hernández
  • Alvaro Pérez


Zinc (Zn) plays crucial roles in mammalian metabolism. There is increasing interest about the potential beneficial effects of Zn on the prevention or treatment of non-communicable diseases. This review critically analyzes the information related to the role of Zn on the metabolic syndrome (MetS) as well as type 2 diabetes (T2D), and summarizes the biological basis of these potential effects of Zn. There are several mechanisms by which Zn may help to prevent the development or progression of MetS and T2D, respectively. Zn is involved in both insulin secretion and action in peripheral tissues. Specifically, Zn has insulin-mimetic properties that increase the activity of the insulin signaling pathway. Zn modulates long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids levels through its action on the absorption of essential fatty acids in the intestine and its subsequent desaturation. Zn is also involved in both the assembly of chylomicrons and lipoproteins as well as their clearance, and thus, plays a role in lipolysis regulation. Finally, Zn has been found to play a role in redox metabolism, and in turn, on blood pressure. The evidence related to the association between Zn status and occurrence of MetS is inconsistent. Although there are several studies reporting an inverse relationship between Zn status or dietary Zn intake and MetS prevalence, others found a direct relationship between Zn status and MetS prevalence. Intervention studies also provide confusing information about this issue, making it hard to reach firm conclusions. Zn as part of the treatment for patients with T2D has been shown to have positive responses in terms of glucose control outcomes, but only among those with Zn deficiency.


Zinc Metabolic syndrome Diabetes 



This research was funded by the National Fund for Development of Science and Technology (FONDECYT), research project 1160792 and by the National Commission for Research in Science and Technology (CONICYT)—Advanced Human Capital Formation Program, National Doctoral Fellowship 2016, No. 21160453 (to MCH).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

MR, FC, PR, and KB were coauthors of the research project FONDECYT 1160792. The rest of the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Nutrition, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of ChileSantiagoChile

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