The balance and diversity of bacteria in our gut has a dramatic influence on health.
This important for many reasons, including breaking down nutrients in food and improving the digestion and absorption dietary minerals.
Now it’s no secret that how we live – particularly how and what we eat – completely alters our gut bacteria. Foods we know have a strong influence include junk foods and products heavy on artificial ingredients and sweeteners.
But new research is finding that a lack of certain nutrients can upset our gut bacteria as well. The latest study looking at zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency and gut health
Zinc deficiency is a condition that affects around 17% of the population (1).
In a recent study on broiler chickens (omnivorous diet and genetic similarities to humans), researchers fed one group (control) a diet adequate in zinc, and another group with low levels of zinc. They collected fecal samples from both groups, extracted microbial DNA and had them analysed.
Results showed that the zinc-deficient chickens had far less diverse bacterial profiles than the control group, which leads to reduced bacterial activity (2).
Lead researcher Elad Tako said that in zinc-deficient chickens, “the concentrations of key short chain fatty acids were lower, and this can potentially reduce the bioavailability of and hence absorption of zinc, which can basically contribute to or intensify the zinc-deficient status of a subject.”
This suggests that zinc is an important mineral for maintaining a healthy gut bacteria. It also tells us that a lack of zinc can contribute to even lower levels of zinc absorption, so it becomes a problem that feeds itself.
To start with, we always recommended you eat a variety of zinc-rich foods. This includes:
- Oysters and shellfish
- Beef and chicken
- Legumes, nuts and seeds
- Milk and yoghurt.
Supplements are also an option, and then there are other foods to consider that may be affecting gut health.
Have you had a zinc deficiency in the past, or suspect you may not be consuming enough? At Darwin Dietitians we can assess your intake, and even offer a microbial testing service to discover any underlying issues. You can call us on 08 8927 3700 or simply enquire here.