The liver is the largest organ in the body. It plays a vital role in the digestion of food and removal of toxins, poisons and other harmful substances from the body. Liver diseases include a wide range of problems, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis and jaundice, that affect the proper functioning of the organ. Avoiding alcohol and drugs, using medications wisely and getting vaccinated against hepatitis viruses, along with healthy diet and exercise, can help prevent liver problems. Certain nutrients, such as zinc, are also essential for healthy liver function.
What is Zinc?
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that plays an important role in growth and development, and in the proper functioning of the immune, nervous and reproductive systems. The Linus Pauling Institute recommends taking about 2 to 12 milligrams of zinc per day, depending on the age and condition of the individual. Meats, dairy products, nuts and beans are dietary sources of zinc. Oral and nasal zinc supplements may also be used to treat zinc deficiency.
Link Between Zinc and Liver Diseases
Zinc deficiency is often linked to liver cirrhosis. In fact, zinc supplementation improves the neurological symptoms and malnutrition associated with liver diseases, say the authors of a study published in the September 2004 edition of the journal "Medical Hypotheses." Another study in the July 2007 issue of the journal "Digestive Diseases and Sciences" also states that zinc supplementation may help protect against acute and chronic liver diseases. Even alcoholic liver diseases may occur due to decreased levels of zinc in the body, and zinc supplementation may help manage alcoholic liver diseases by inhibiting the formation of free oxygen radicals and enhancing the activity of antioxidant pathways, according to an article in the June 2005 issue of "The American Journal of Pathology." Some animal studies, such as the one published in the November 2010 issue of the journal "Clinical and Experimental Metabolism," have demonstrated the antioxidant activity of zinc in animal models and indicated that zinc may prevent oxidative liver damage.
Use of zinc supplements in moderation is generally considered safe. However, mild side effects such as nausea, vomiting and gastric disturbances may sometimes occur. Prolonged use of the supplements can lead to the deficiency of another trace mineral called copper. Intranasal zinc supplements can also lead to loss of sense. The supplements may also interfere with certain antibiotics, such as tetracyclines and quinolones, as well as with anti-convulsant drugs.
Zinc supplements are available at your local pharmacy without a prescription. However, talk to a doctor before using zinc supplements to treat liver conditions to determine if they are right for you. Tell your doctor about any medications you might be taking.
- Linus Pauling Institute; Zinc; Jane Higdon, Ph.D.; December 2003
- "Medical Hypotheses"; Liver Cirrhosis and “Liver”; Diabetes Mellitus are Linked by Zinc Deficiency; Kurt Grungreiff, et al.; September 2004
- "Digestive Diseases and Sciences"; Zinc and the Liver: An Active Interaction.; I. Stamoulis, et al.; July 2007
- "The American Journal of Pathology"; Zinc Supplementation Prevents Alcoholic Liver Injury in Mice Through Attenuation of Oxidative Stress.; Z. Zhou, et al.; June 2005
- "Clinical and Experimental Metabolism"; Effect of Different Dietary Zinc Levels on Hepatic Antioxidant and Micronutrients Indices Under Oxidative Stress Conditions; Rashmi S. Tupe, et al.; November 2010