British Journal of Nutrition

Horizons in Nutritional Science

Is zinc deficiency a risk factor for atherosclerosis?

John H. Beattiea1 c1 and In-Sook Kwuna2

a1 Division of Cellular Integrity, Rowett Research Institute, Greenburn Road, Bucksburn, Aberdeen AB21 9SB, Scotland, UK

a2 Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Andong National University, Andong, Kyungpook, South Korea


The development of atherosclerosis is influenced by genetic, lifestyle and nutritional risk factors. Zn and metallothionein deficiency can enhance oxidative-stress-related signalling processes in endothelial cells, and since changes in available plasma Zn may affect the Zn status of the endothelium, Zn deficiency could be a risk factor for IHD. Although the association of Zn with many proteins is essential for their function, three key signalling processes are highlighted as being principal targets for the effect of Zn deficiency: the activation of NF-κB, the activation of caspase enzymes and the signalling of NO. The need to develop a reliable indicator of Zn status is critical to any epidemiological approach for studying the relationship between Zn status and disease incidence. Studies using appropriate animal models and investigating how the plasma Zn pool influences endothelial intracellular labile Zn would be helpful in appreciating the importance of Zn deficiency in atherogenesis.

(Received November 14 2003)

(Accepted November 18 2003)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr John H. Beattie, fax +44 1224 716 662, email