diabetes supplement
Diabetes Diet

Take Zinc If Your Diabetes Is High

If you are healthy, you may not need to take a zinc supplement. But if your health isn’t good enough, a new meta-analysis indicates that you probably need to take one. The study categorizes people with type 2 diabetes as “non-healthy.”

zinc (1)

The mineral zinc plays an important role in how our bodies use insulin and in the metabolism of carbohydrates. When non-healthy people take a zinc supplement, the new study found that they can “significantly reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.”

An earlier meta-analysis focused entirely on people with diabetes. It found that zinc helps us manage both our blood glucose and lipids better.

The journal Nutrition and Metabolism published the new meta-analysis in 2015 as “Effects of Zinc supplementation on serum lipids.” Some of these same researchers published the earlier meta-analysis, “Effects of Zinc Supplementation on Diabetes Mellitus,” in the journal Diabetology and Metabolic Syndrome in 2015. The full texts of both studies are free online.

Low levels of zinc can be deadly

One third of all the people in the world are deficient in zinc. Marginal zinc deficiency is common in developed countries, and severe zinc deficiency is common in developing countries. It is a major factor contributing to the deaths of 1.4 percent of people worldwide. It is associated with diabetes, cancer, and many other diseases.

The new meta-analysis reviewed and summarized the findings of 32 studies involving more than 14,000 people. The earlier meta-analysis of people who have diabetes included three studies of people with type 1 and 22 studies of people with type 2 diabetes. The earlier study was the first and apparently the only meta-analysis of zinc supplementation for people with diabetes.

How much zinc to take

You need to carefully consider how much supplemental zinc you need to take. Don’t take any if you are healthy. But even if you have diabetes, you may be healthy. If you regularly have a normal blood glucose level, one as measured by A1C tests that is 6.0 or less, and don’t have any serious complications of diabetes or other diseases, you are healthy. Sadly, however, few people who have diabetes have been able to control their diabetes to this extent. In this case, be sure to take a zinc supplement.

How much? Like essentially everything, you can just as easily take too much zinc as you can take too little. A moderate dose is what you need. People included in the more recent meta-analysis took an average 39.3 mg per day. This is just a bit below the tolerable upper intake level of 40 mg.

The earlier meta-analysis, which was of people with diabetes, found that their levels of HDL cholesterol — the good cholesterol — seemed to get lower — worse — when they took more than 50 mg per day for three months or more. Even more conditions worsened at even higher doses. At a lower level one of the studies in this meta-analysis showed that even just 20 mg per day helped elderly people who were marginally deficient in zinc.

Are you healthy?

Are you healthy or not? You need to decide and do what’s best for yourself. If you aren’t healthy, in the short term you need a zinc supplement. In the long term you need to focus your life’s energy on regaining your health.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Healthsomeness at

    Hi David,

    You are correct, a vast amount of food would need to be eaten in order to match the quantity of zinc found in foods.

    There are however lots of different zinc rich foods and I just wanted to share a resource that we recently published – http://www.healthsomeness.com/foods-high-in/zinc/ – I think some of your readers will find it helpful

    • David Mendosa at

      Many thanks! What a great resource you have. But why are you anonymous? Makes me suspicious of motives whenever I run across this….

  • Chris Raverty at

    If my understanding is correct, just under 40 mg of zinc daily is a good dosage. I recently was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and I’m currently putting in place a diet that is acceptable and lowers my daily carb intake. I do take a daily multi vitamin and have for a few years now. The label indicates that 15 mg of zinc (as zinc oxide) is per tablet and indicates that to be 100% of the daily value. Would an additional zinc tablet daily of approx 20 mg to make the difference be wise for me to do?
    Thanks David

    • David Mendosa at

      That depends on your A1C level, Chris, as I wrote in the article.

  • Rose Marie Wreaks at

    My aic contiues to rise from 7.0 to 8.0 fasting go from good to 140’s and up i am 82 yrs years old work out everyday and otherwise in good health. Is zinc a good idea for me? Dosage ? Take janumet 50/ 500. And 50/1000 each day

    • David Mendosa at

      Your blood glucose level IS high, Rose Marie. So at least for now it might well be good for you to take a zinc supplement. But the key issue, of course, is to get your A1C level down. It has to be below 6.0. The best thing that you can do for your health is to cut way back on the carbs that you eat. But if you are unwilling to do that you’ve got to change your diabetes medication. Please talk with your endocrinologist or PCP about starting insulin.

  • Sue T at

    Aren’t there foods that can bring us to this level without supplements…or are they all high carb?

  • Brian Meadows at

    David, it’s not particularly relevant to this blog entry, but as a relatively newly-diagnosed pre-diabetic, who’s now been classified by the medics as “diabetic controlled by diet”, i.e. no drugs, I wonder whether there are any studies out there which show which is the more important, the “baseline” glucose level for an individual or the magnitude of the post-meal spikes above the baseline?

    Just to pick an example out of thin air, consider two scenarios for the same patient :-

    1) Baseline values in the 90s but spikes up to 160 an hour after eating

    2) Baseline values in the 100s but spikes up to 140 an hour after eating.

    Which of these two scenarios is the least harmful? Again, I’m NOT suggesting that I have the ability to choose between them, I’m just curious as to whether it’s the baseline or the magnitude of any spikes that is the real target.

    • David Mendosa at

      Yes, Brian, while your question isn’t relevant to this article, it is a good one. And fortunately I have a good memory because I answered it in an article that I wrote more than 10 years ago. The answer takes more than just a few words so please read it at “When is the best time of day to test?