Food and Behaviour Research

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How does zinc supplementation benefit anorexia nervosa?

Birmingham CL, Gritzner S. (2006) Eat Weight Disord.  11(4) e109-11 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here



A randomized controlled trial of zinc supplementation in anorexia nervosa (AN) reported a two-fold increase of the rate of increase of body mass index (BMI) in the zinc group.

Zinc is inexpensive, readily available and free of significant side effects. However, oral zinc supplementation is infrequently prescribed as an adjunctive treatment for AN. Understanding the mechanism of action of zinc may increase its use.


Low zinc intake, which is very common in AN, adversely affects neurotransmitters in various parts of the brain, including gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) and the amygdala, which are abnormal in AN.

Zinc supplementation corrects these abnormalities, resulting in clinical benefit in AN.


Oral administration of 14 mg of elemental zinc daily for 2 months in all patients with AN should be routine.


Research in both animals and humans supports a role for zinc deficiency in the maintenance of anorexic symptoms, and there is also clinical trial evidence indicating that zinc supplementation can help in the treatment of anorexia nervosa.

As this review highlights, the known effects of zinc on neurotransmitter functioning provide a sound rationale for its use in anorexia.

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