Study finds zinc doesn't reduce mortality, other health risk
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Zinc supplementation did not reduce mortality, cardiovascular risk, levels of inflammation, or microbial translocation among people with heavy alcohol use living with HIV/AIDS, according to a Vanderbilt-led study.

The study, recently published in JAMA Network Open, followed 254 participants living with HIV/AIDS with heavy alcohol use for 18 months. Some participants received pharmacy-grade zinc supplementations, a known anti-inflammatory agent, while others received a placebo.

Researchers noted that HIV is associated with non-AIDS diseases, including heart disease and cancer, but scientists are still studying what mechanism causes it. One possible mechanism is that HIV is an inflammatory disease that affects multiple organs and results in, for example, a leak of gut bacteria, or microbial translocation. The problem is exacerbated by HIV/AIDS itself but particularly when people living with it drink large amounts of alcohol.

Quitting alcohol is ideal, but researchers hypothesized that zinc supplementation could reduce harm to patients if they were unable to abstain because prior work demonstrates that zinc supplementation reduces microbial translocation. As an inexpensive product that has few drug interactions, he suggested it could be a scalable treatment to a wide population if effective.

He noted that the study group that took the zinc supplement had a 2% increase in mortality risk in 18 months, a statistically insignificant difference, but the group that received the placebo had a 20% increase in mortality risk. However, only 51% of the study population adhered to the medication regimen.