Zinc and human health: an update

Abstract

The importance of micronutrients in health and nutrition is undisputable, and among them, zinc is an essential element whose significance to health is increasingly appreciated and whose deficiency may play an important role in the appearance of diseases. Zinc is one of the most important trace elements in the organism, with three major biological roles, as catalyst, structural, and regulatory ion. Zinc-binding motifs are found in many proteins encoded by the human genome physiologically, and free zinc is mainly regulated at the single-cell level. Zinc has critical effect in homeostasis, in immune function, in oxidative stress, in apoptosis, and in aging, and significant disorders of great public health interest are associated with zinc deficiency. In many chronic diseases, including atherosclerosis, several malignancies, neurological disorders, autoimmune diseases, aging, age-related degenerative diseases, and Wilson’s disease, the concurrent zinc deficiency may complicate the clinical features, affect adversely immunological status, increase oxidative stress, and lead to the generation of inflammatory cytokines. In these diseases, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation may play important causative roles. It is therefore important that status of zinc is assessed in any case and zinc deficiency is corrected, since the unique properties of zinc may have significant therapeutic benefits in these diseases. In the present paper, we review the zinc as a multipurpose trace element, its biological role in homeostasis, proliferation and apoptosis and its role in immunity and in chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, depression, Wilson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other age-related diseases.

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Correspondence to Maria E. Stefanidou.

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Chasapis, C.T., Loutsidou, A.C., Spiliopoulou, C.A. et al. Zinc and human health: an update. Arch Toxicol 86, 521–534 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00204-011-0775-1

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Keywords

  • Zinc
  • Health
  • Zinc biology
  • Metallothioneins
  • Oxidative stress
  • Apoptosis
  • Immune response