Suffering from diabetes? Think zinc!

Suffering From Diabetes? Think Zinc!

Diabetes and prediabetes are significantly more common among men and women consuming diets low in zinc,1 and zinc deficiency may also be more common among type 2 diabetics than healthy adults,2 suggesting that zinc supplementation may lower blood sugar and insulin resistance.

Indeed, a 2012 meta-analysis looked at 10 studies on patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome or obesity, and found that zinc supplements reduce fasting blood sugar and have a tendency to reduce HbA1c. 3

Another 2012 meta-analysis looked at 25 studies – 3 on type 1 and 22 on type 2 diabetics – and found that zinc supplements reduce fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, and increase carbohydrate tolerance in type 2 diabetics, with other positive effects on type 1 diabetics. Zinc supplements also improved cholesterol.4

Zinc supplements are not sold as the pure metal but bound to another substance, forming a so called zinc salt. The most studied forms of zinc salts have been Zinc Sulphate/Sulfate (ZnSO4) and Zinc Gluconate, so look for those when you buy.

Dose: 30 milligrams per day has been used successfully to treat diabetes, and up to 50 is probably fine, too. Make sure you get the appropriate amount of zinc metal, not total amount of the supplement, which may include other ingredients.

Foods rich in zinc

It is possible to get a decent amount of zinc from food, unlike some other supplements for diabetes. If you want to reach doses of 30 milligrams or more per day, a supplement is still recommended because it’s difficult to get that much from food.

Nevertheless, here are some zinc-rich foods that you can increase your intake of, to minimize the need for supplements.

Food sources of zinc

Protein-rich foods






Egg yolk

Nuts and seeds

Sesame seeds

Pumpkin/squash seeds


Cashew nuts

Pecan nuts

Brazil nuts



Cocoa powder


Note: The foods are listed from most to least zinc in each category.


Scientific sources

  1. Singh RB, Niaz MA, Rastogi SS, Bajaj S, Gaoli Z, Shoumin Z. Current zinc intake and risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease and factors associated with insulin resistance in rural and urban populations of North India. J Am Coll Nutr. Dec 1998;17(6):564-570.
  2. Oh HM, Yoon JS. Glycemic control of type 2 diabetic patients after short-term zinc supplementation. Nutr Res Pract. Winter 2008;2(4):283-288.
  3. Capdor J, Foster M, Petocz P, Samman S. Zinc and glycemic control: a meta-analysis of randomised placebo controlled supplementation trials in humans. J Trace Elem Med Biol. Apr;27(2):137-142.
  4. Jayawardena R, Ranasinghe P, Galappatthy P, Malkanthi R, Constantine G, Katulanda P. Effects of zinc supplementation on diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetol Metab Syndr.4(1):13.