Zinc Does More Than You Think: It Can Lower Blood Pressure Too

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Nearly half of American adults have hypertension, a primary contributing factor to heart disease. Currently, only 1 in 4 adults have their hypertension under control, which leaves millions of American adults at risk of heart disease. Treatment options typically include medications and lifestyle changes like reduced sodium and increased potassium intake. But, a recent study has discovered that zinc may have an important role too. 

For over 60 years, calcium and potassium have been the go-to minerals for natural blood pressure treatment. A new study published in Nature Communications identified that zinc also has an advantageous effect on blood vessels. Although this study researched zinc concerning brain function in Alzheimer’s patients, scientists discovered an unexpected reduction in blood pressure with elevated intracellular zinc levels.

Previous research has already identified that zinc deficiency is associated with hypertension in animals, but there was a lack of evidence regarding the mechanism in which this was done. Additionally, blood vessels in the brain and heart were known to have a greater sensitivity to zinc, which would make it perfect for regulating blood pressure and supporting heart health.

The mechanisms by which zinc supports blood vessel function differ from calcium. Calcium causes muscles surrounding blood vessels to tighten, which can restrict blood flow. Typically potassium is required to help regulate calcium levels to support proper blood flow. Zinc was found to influence arterial cells and sensory nerves to reduce calcium, allow muscles to relax, and blood to flow more freely.

Recent animal studies allowed scientists to uncover the mechanism through which zinc helps to lower blood pressure. Their findings were as follows:

♦ Zinc levels in the bloodstream do not correlate with zinc levels within cells.

♦ Higher levels of zinc within cells are correlated with lower blood pressure.

♦ Zinc ionophores (chemical vehicles that transport zinc across cell membranes) upregulate intracellular zinc levels, causing vasorelaxation and reduced blood pressure.

♦ Chelation (a type of ion bonding) downregulates intracellular zinc levels, causing blood vessel contraction and restricted blood flow.

Zinc has many beneficial roles on the body, and researchers were surprised that this new role has gone unappreciated for so long. This accidental discovery holds great potential for the development of zinc-based blood pressure treatment. By focusing on increasing intracellular zinc levels with the use of ionophores, new approaches to blood pressure treatment can be developed. 

The high incidence of hypertension among American adults continues to drive research in the hopes of discovering more effective treatment options. The current drugs available can help regulate blood pressure, but many people develop resistance to blood pressure medications, and there are also problematic side effects for many people. A more natural approach, like zinc, could be the solution we have all been waiting for.

Journal Reference: 

Betrie, A.H., Brock, J.A., Harraz, O.F. et al. (2021). Zinc drives vasorelaxation by acting in sensory nerves, endothelium and smooth muscle. Nature Communications, vol. 12, 3296.