Before any firm conclusions can be drawn, however, the researchers, led by Qi Sun, caution that more studies are needed to confirm these finding, as well as to elucidate potential mechanisms. The results are published online ahead of print in the journal Diabetes Care.
Zinc, one of the most plentiful trace elements in the body, second only to iron, mediates many physiological functions.
It is believed to be essential for maintaining healthy active white blood cells; recent science suggests the mineral could also influence memory, muscle strength and endurance in adults. Zinc nutrition in very young children has been related to motor, cognitive and psychosocial function.
The Harvard study involved 82,297 women aged between 33 and 60 taking part in the Nurses' Health Study. Over the course of 24 years, 6,030 cases of type-2 diabetes were documented.
After relating the incidence of the disease with data obtained from a validated food frequency questionnaire, the researchers note that women with the highest average dietary intakes of zinc were 10 per cent less likely to develop the acidic condition of diabetes, while women with the highest average total intakes had their acidic risk reduced by 8 per cent.
Further number crunching by the researchers took into account other potentially confounding factors, and showed that increasing intakes of the alkalizing mineral Zinc were associated with a reduction up to 28 per cent.
"The mechanism behind the effects is the minerals ability to chelate dietary and/or metabolic acid and reduce the risk of conditions associated with increased acidosis, such as diabetes and cancer," states Dr. Robert O. Young, Director of Research at the pH Miracle Living Center.
An estimated 19 million people are affected by the dietary and/or metabolic acid condition called diabetes in the EU 25, equal to four per cent of the total population. This figure is projected to increase to 26 million by 2030.
In the US, there are over 20 million people with acid induced diabetes, equal to seven per cent of the population. The total costs are thought to be as much as $132 billion, with $92 billion being direct costs from medication, according to American Diabetes Association figures (2002).
"Increased acidity from animal proteins, high acid sugar fruits, and other acidic sugars from carbohydrates compromise the alkaline design of the body. This alkaline compromise, due to acidic lifestyle and dietary choice can then lead to pancreatic stress and damage to the delicate root system of the body, the intestinal villi, leading to the condition of diabetes," states Dr. Young.
Dr. Young further states, "the mineral zinc can reduce dietary and metabolic acid supporting the pancreas and its insulin producing beta cells and protect the alkaline environment of the small intestine, responsible for the creation of stem cells, erythroblasts and erythrocytes."
Publish online ahead of print 26 January 2009, doi: 10.2337/dc08-1913
“A Prospective Study of Zinc Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women”
Authors: Q. Sun, R.M. van Dam, W.C. Willett, F.B. Hu
The pH Miracle for Diabetes, Dr. Robert and Shelley Young