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Research Links Zinc Deficiency, Liver Cirrhosis

Four From Medical School Publish Results of Studies


Four Medical School researchers have discovered a significant relationship between zinc metabolism and an often-fatal disease of heavy drinkers, cirrhosis of the liver.

Dr. Bert L. Vallee, director of the Biophysics Laboratory, a joint project of the Medical School and the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital; Dr. Warren E. C. Wacker; Dr. Anthony Bartholomay, and Dr. Frederic L. Hoch published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine, after three and a half years of study.

Zinc Stores Depleted

They discovered that below-normal concentration of zinc in the blood of cirrhosis patients was coupled with excessive excretion of zinc in the urine. This, in turn, seriously depleted the body's stores of the trace metal.

By comparing 19 normal "controls" with ten patients afflicted with the disease, the group discovered that an increase of zinc in the urine indicated the severity of the case. Cirrhosis is one of the ten most common fatal diseases.

Patients Fed Zinc

The researchers added about 1/1000 of an ounce of zinc daily to the diet of cirrhosis patients, and noted that liver function improved within two days to four months. In addition, the amount of the metal excreted from the body was reduced.

The group, however, warned that alcoholic cirrhosis has not been understood completely, citing the influence of other, secondary factors on the body's use of zinc.

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