Originally published December 30th 2019
Eating more foods rich in zinc may contribute to better liver health, a recent study finds.
Researchers from the Osaka-Rosai Hospital in Japan found that zinc supplementation may help reduce the risk of liver cancer and other liver diseases. Through a controlled clinical trial, their findings revealed that patients with chronic liver disease (CLD) who received zinc supplements exhibited better liver health compared to patients who did not. The researchers published their findings in the journal Nutrients.
Zinc supplementation can help improve overall liver health
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 33,000 Americans have liver cancer and 27,000 of them die from it each year. Liver cancer can stem from different conditions including diabetes, cirrhosis (the scarring of the liver) and excessive alcohol intake. (Related: Take a break from alcohol and switch to these 3 liver-detoxifying drinks.)
However, non-alcoholic drinkers may suffer from liver disease as well. One such disease being the build-up of fatty tissue around the liver or Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. According to medical experts, this is caused by various factors such as obesity and metabolic syndrome. It currently affects around 100 million individuals in the U.S.
With the rise of liver-related problems among Americans however, a team of Japanese researchers have found a solution: zinc supplementation.
According to the researchers, they observed that patients with CLD had lower concentrations of zinc. These levels, the researchers said, decreased further as the disease progressed, thus necessitating an investigation as to whether or not supplementing CLD patients with zinc can alleviate the symptoms.
In a controlled clinical trial, the researchers gathered 267 participants with CLD. These patients suffered from different kinds of liver-related conditions, including hepatitis B and C, cirrhosis due to alcohol intake and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). One group, comprised of 196 patients, received zinc supplementation twice daily. The other group, which had 71 patients, did not. Both groups however, received other standard treatments, including amino acid supplementation.
After three years, the study’s findings affirmed what the researchers suspected: the zinc group exhibited improved liver function and a reduction in inflammatory markers as well as a lower risk of developing liver cancer. Meanwhile, the liver health of patients who did not receive zinc deteriorated throughout the study.
Moreover, the researchers were able to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying zinc’s effects. According to their findings, when the body does not have enough zinc, it causes liver-specific cells called hepatic stellate cells to activate. This leads to lipid peroxidation, a process where reactive oxygen species attack polyunsaturated fats. It initiates a self-propagating chain reaction that results in the accumulation of fat in the liver. According to their findings, this fatty accumulation may contribute to several liver diseases.
Overall, the study showed that consuming more zinc – or at least meeting the recommended intake – may prevent liver cancer and promote overall liver health.
Eat more foods rich in zinc
Aside from liver health, consuming enough zinc per day has a wide array of health benefits. Some of these include:
- Regulating the immune system;
- Alleviating the symptoms of diarrhea;
- Treating the common cold;
- Boosts cognitive function (specifically learning and memory);
- And preventing age-related macular degeneration.
The recommended daily intake for zinc is 11 mg for men and eight mg for women.
Some of the foods rich in zinc include grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, and cage-free eggs. For vegetarians, organic chickpeas, cashews, and sunflower seeds are also great sources of zinc.
Zinc supplements are also available in the form of lozenges and capsules. However, make sure to consult with a doctor first before taking these, and always follow the recommended dosage.
Learn more about other nutritious compounds the body needs to boost its health at Health.news.