RSSZinc deficiency reduces digestive enzymes

Posted on Tue, 19 Jul 16

Zinc deficiency reduces digestive enzymes

Despite being relatively common, little is known about the health effects of marginal zinc deficiency. A new report suggests it could impair normal digestion. 

Severe zinc deficiency is common in developing countries and a leading cause of childhood mortality due to increased susceptibility to fatal infectious illness [1]. Although zinc deficiency is considered rare in developed countries, new evidence suggests that marginal deficiency may be much more common than people realise [2]. 

The health effects of marginal deficiency however are not well understood, this is in part because zinc is an unusual nutrient in that it is important for a very wide range of biochemical functions [3]. 

Using a new and more sensitive experimental model a research team from Germany set out to try and identify the health effects of marginal zinc deficiency [4]. They focused on digestive function because previous reports suggest that digestive enzyme production and absorption of nutrients could be affected by zinc deficiency.

Their research found that long before better known clinical symptoms of zinc deficiency arise, pancreatic zinc levels quickly decline, digestive enzyme production is reduced and food digestion is impaired. ‘The practical consequence of the present study is that even short periods of insufficient alimentary zinc supply have to be urgently avoided in order to maintain digestive function,” they concluded. 

The applicability of this preliminary study to humans is uncertain, but it does suggest marginal zinc deficiency would be an important consideration if you have pancreatic insufficiency, a condition not uncommon in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) [5]. 


  1. Fischer Walker CL, Ezzati M, Black RE. Global and regional child mortality and burden of disease attributable to zinc deficiency. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;63(5):591-7.
  2. Yasuda H, Tsutsui T. Infants and elderlies are susceptible to zinc deficiency. Sci Rep. 2016 Feb 25;6:21850.
  3. King JC. Zinc: an essential but elusive nutrient. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;94(2):679S-84S.
  4. Brugger D, Windisch WM. Subclinical zinc deficiency impairs pancreatic digestive enzyme activity and digestive capacity of weaned piglets. Br J Nutr. 2016 Aug;116(3):425-33.
  5. Leeds JS, Hopper AD, Sidhu R, et al. Some patients with irritable bowel syndrome may have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 May;8(5):433-8. 

Tags: Zinc, Digestive Enzymes, Digestive Health, The Digestive Ehalth Solution

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