Gluten-Free Diet and Zinc (photo courtesy of Rudner)
Celiac.com 04/28/2010 - Celiac disease primarily impacts the proximal small intestine, and the small intestine is fundamental  in maintaining zinc equilibrium within the body. Recently, zinc has been acknowledged for it's importance in upholding the integrity of intestinal mucosa, immunity and proper growth rates in children. Base-line plasma zinc levels are shown to be greatly reduced in over two-thirds of children diagnosed with celiac disease.

A study was conducted by the Celiac Disease Clinic in the division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Post Graduate Institute Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India  between July 2006 and December 2007, to evaluate plasma levels of zinc in children with celiac disease, correlate plasma zinc levels among celiacs short in stature and with diarrhea, and to compare plasma zinc levels in deficient patients on a gluten-free diet with zinc supplementation, to patients on a gluten-free diet without zinc supplementation.

134 total patients less than 14 years old and newly diagnosed with celiac disease, were enrolled for the study. Each subject enrolled was also evaluated for baseline demographics and social profiles which included an in-depth medical history, physical examination, and thorough blood work. All patients included in the study were placed on a gluten-free diet and  received dietary counseling from a physician and experienced dietitian.

All patients received a 20 milligram dose of elemental zinc supplementation for 4 weeks.  Plasma zinc levels were compared at baseline and also at 4 weeks to determine zinc deficiency. Patients found to be deficient in zinc levels were randomly divided into two  groups, Group G and Group G+Z. Group G treatments included a gluten-free diet without zinc supplementation. Group G+Z received a gluten-free diet with zinc supplementation. 

The results of this study showed that plasma zinc levels had a significant rise in Group G and Group G+Z regardless of zinc supplementation. However, a gluten-free diet alone showed a profound increase in plasma zinc levels, even when compared to gluten-free diet with zinc supplements; thereby indicating that zinc supplementation combined with  a gluten-free diet gives no additional benefits to plasma zinc levels. In fact,  all celiac patients that maintained  a gluten-free diet for this study showed that their ability to absorb zinc had significantly improved. Therefore, it can be concluded that zinc levels rise with a gluten-free diet regardless of zinc supplementation,  proving that a  completely gluten-free diet is the cure to poor zinc absorption in celiac patients.

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