Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Zinc and miscarriage/prem birth

I have already discussed the tantalizing hint that zinc could be associated with the ability to be pregnant and the impact of zinc intake on labor. Well today's post focuses on the link between zinc levels and miscarriage/premature birth.

Zinc seems to be a wonder nutrient involved in all sorts of processes inside the body. It is well known that in animals low zinc levels can cause pregnancy complications. However the question is can we infer from these animal studies that zinc is important for human conception, carrying and birth. We can only infer such things as it wouldn't be ethical to put women on a low zinc diet to see what happened to their fertility and of  spring!

Guinea pigs are a test animal that can give us insight into human nutrition and effects. What a study done 20 years ago investigated effect of low zinc levels on carrying babies. What they found was that guinea pigs who had low levels of zinc in the diet either miscarriaged or have premature birth.      

The logical question is what should we now eat..... well due to a number of factors (read my book) we really have no idea about zinc levels in our food. I would recommend a good multi (surprise!).

Now given that this study is 20 years old (I sometimes look at journals that are a in multiplies of 10 years old) and that we have fertility issues in the Western world, one would expect a quick pubmed search would through up some studies that further extend this work. What I found was:
  • A 1994 paper concluded "In a recent Zn supplementation trial, 1 of 248 Zn-supplemented women spontaneously aborted, compared with 5 of 249 women given a placebo (Mahomed et al, 1989). However, enrolment in the study at < 20 weeks of gestation appeared to be well after conception and the period of greatest risk of fetal loss". So here we have further data to support the study discussed above that zinc levels are important to carrying to full term that is 20 years old
  • Another paper published in 1993 quoting at length "zinc therapy in identified low-zinc groups has given favorable results and has reduced the frequencies of premature birth, placental ablation, perinatal death, and postmaturity. It is suggested, as we did in 1980, that these data are compatible with the presence of a zinc-deficiency syndrome in pregnancy, which includes increased maternal morbidity, abnormal taste sensations, abnormally short or prolonged gestations, inefficient labor, atonic bleeding, and increased risks to the fetus such as malformations, growth retardation, prematurity, postmaturity, and perinatal death" (emphasis added) So what this all means is that low zinc levels are bad in pregnancy. They state that "fasting serum or plasma samples or the more laborious estimation of zinc in leucocytes or monocytes if sampling and handling is carefully performed"
This makes my blood boil ! What this means is 30 years ago researches began to see that human zinc status could be important in carrying babies to full term. Then 20 years ago this hypothesis was well confirmed with animal studies and human studies. I ask you this question - do you know anybody who had trouble with miscarriages or carrying babies full term? The odds are you do, as this seems to be a common problem, and likely more prevalent as it is a painful and personal issue, not one that is badgered about the office in ideal chit chat.

So these people that have trouble carrying to full term - have their doctor or medical person tested their blood for zinc levels? NO I think not - well none I know of...... yet this is old science. The lack of understanding about nutrition in the medical field is disturbing (BTW I really respect doctors and medical people as they have worked their butts off to get were they are. My beef is with the system that stops information such as above reaching the right people!).     

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