A press release published by Cornell University shares research that has found that zinc deficiency alters gut bacteria makeup and function:
The researchers used broiler chickens in the study, partly due to their omnivorous appetites – which allowed the researchers to feed them purified diets – and because of their fatty acids and genetic similarities to humans.
There is a great diagram in the actual study: Chronic Zinc Deficiency Alters Chick Gut Microbiota Composition and Function. It explains the proposed mechanisms by which a zinc-deficient gut microbiome may perpetuate a zinc-deficient state.
Figure 8. Schematic diagram depicting proposed mechanisms by which a Zn [zinc] deficient gut microbiome may worsen a Zn deficient phenotype. Zn deficiency (1), caused by insufficient dietary Zn (2), induces a decrease in gut microbial diversity (3), and an outgrowth of bacteria particularly suited to low Zn conditions, leading to dysbiosis [3A–C]. Lack of dietary Zn also leads to alterations in the functional capacity of the microflora (4), causing multiple effects including decreased expression of pathways related to mineral (i.e., Zn) absorption (4A) and carbohydrate digestion and fermentation (4B). A decrease in the latter pathway may also cause a depression in the production of SCFAs [short chain fatty acids] (5), compounds responsible for improving the bioavailability of Zn. Altogether, these microbial effects may decrease Zn absorbability (6A) and disturb GI health (6B), thereby perpetuating a Zn deficient state. Red arrows and orange–lined boxes denote observations of this study, and dashed arrows and black–lined boxes describe published findings.
The above is shared here under the Creative Commons Attribution License and can be found here: Reed, S.; Neuman, H.; Moscovich, S.; Glahn, R.P.; Koren, O.; Tako, E. Chronic Zinc Deficiency Alters Chick Gut Microbiota Composition and Function. Nutrients 2015, 7, 9768-9784.
Zinc status is notoriously difficult to assess so I am fascinated by the findings of this Cornell University study suggesting
a simple new way to test for zinc deficiency by analyzing a patient’s fecal sample and seeing if the profile of gut bacteria matches the makeup one would expect in a zinc-deficient individual.
The authors suggest that with additional research this zinc stool test could become a noninvasive biomarker for zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency is common, affecting 25 percent of the world’s population, especially in the developing world.
Zinc deficiency plays a major role in anxiety and depression. Here is a recent paper on the connection between low serum zinc, high CRP (a marker of inflammation) and pre- and post-natal anxiety and depression: Lower Serum Zinc and Higher CRP Strongly Predict Prenatal Depression and Physio-somatic Symptoms, Which All Together Predict Postnatal Depressive Symptoms.
New research, soon to be published by the Journal of Neuroscience by researchers at the University of Auckland, shows the importance of zinc in autism. The study looks at how zinc can affect brain cell communication that is altered at the cellular level.
The researchers suggest this research may have applications for psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia (and presumably anxiety and depression too).
I feel that we have an under-recognized opportunity to have a bigger impact on mental and physical health if we take zinc deficiency more seriously.
Have you had your zinc status assessed and do you supplement accordingly?
If you’re a practitioner, do you regularly check the zinc status of all your patients/clients?