Prospective Study of Zinc Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women

  1. Qi Sun, MD, SCD1,
  2. Rob M. van Dam, PHD1,2,
  3. Walter C. Willett, MD, DRPH1,2,3 and
  4. Frank B. Hu, MD, PHD1,2,3
  1. 1Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts;
  2. 2Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts;
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.
  1. Corresponding author: Qi Sun, qisun{at}


OBJECTIVE The aim of this study is to investigate the intake of zinc in relation to risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. women.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Dietary intakes of zinc and other nutrients were assessed and updated using a validated food frequency questionnaire from 1980 to 2002 among 82,297 women who were aged 33–60 years at baseline in 1980 and followed up to 2004 in the Nurses' Health Study.

RESULTS During the 24 years of follow-up, 6,030 incident cases of type 2 diabetes were ascertained. After adjustment of lifestyle and dietary risk factors, the relative risks (RRs) (95% CI) of type 2 diabetes comparing the highest with the lowest quintiles were 0.90 (0.82–0.99) (Ptrend = 0.04) for total zinc intake and 0.92 (0.84–1.00) (Ptrend = 0.009) for dietary zinc intake from food sources, respectively. We further found an inverse association for dietary zinc to heme iron ratio. After multivariate adjustment of covariates, the RRs (95% CI) across quintiles of this ratio were 1.0 (reference), 0.93 (0.86–1.01), 0.86 (0.79–0.94), 0.82 (0.75–0.90), and 0.72 (0.66–0.80), respectively (Ptrend < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS Higher zinc intake may be associated with a slightly lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women. More studies are warranted to confirm this association and to explore potential mechanisms.


  • The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

    • Received October 22, 2008.
    • Accepted January 14, 2009.
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  1. Diabetes Care vol. 32 no. 4 629-634
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