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Zinc Supplementation May Help Prevent Cancer in Diabetic Patients

Zinc may increase the levels of a potent cancer fighter in the body…. 

Researchers from a university in Bangkok examined a potential link between zinc supplementation and cancer prevention in patients with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Since both diabetes and metabolic syndrome can weaken a patient’s immune system, this population is more prone to developing diseases such as cancers. The researchers chose to supplement with zinc because it is thought that zinc can increase Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-α) on monocytes, and TNF-α is one of the most potent cancer fighters in the body.

The study included 17 diabetic patients randomized to receive either 30mg of elemental zinc or a placebo daily for 8 weeks. The participants had their TNF-α levels in the plasma, on lymphocytes, and on monocytes measured before supplementation as well as at the end of the 8 week period. While there was no significant difference in the TNF-α levels on the lymphocytes and in the plasma between the groups, the TNF-α on the monocytes significantly increased in the zinc supplementation group as compared to the placebo group.

The researchers concluded that in diabetes patients with metabolic syndrome, zinc supplementation could be beneficial in helping that population avoid cancers by increasing the TNF-α levels on monocytes. Since zinc supplementation is generally well tolerated and inexpensive, it may be of benefit for this population to take a daily zinc supplement.

Practice Pearls:
  • Zinc supplementation was found to increase levels of TNF-α on the monocytes in diabetic patients.
  • TNF-α is known to be a strong anti-cancer agent in the body.
  • Daily zinc supplementation may have a protective effect against cancer development in diabetic patients with metabolic syndrome.

Anticancer Research, January 2014