By Jim Hannah, July 18, 2019
| Wright State (Ohio) University – New research linking zinc deficiency to high blood pressure has been published by the American Journal of Physiology.
“My goal right now is to bring awareness that zinc deficiency can contribute to high blood pressure and should be monitored,” said renal physiologist and study leader Clintoria Williams, an assistant professor at Wright State University.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can increase the risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. Zinc, a trace element highly concentrated in the pancreas, helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
“There are populations who have lower zinc in their diet that have a higher prevalence of hypertension,” said Williams. “So literature was out there pointing in the direction that zinc deficiency may be contributing to hypertension, but no one directly investigated it.”
Williams led a study in which a small group of mice was fed a zinc-deficient diet and then a zinc-rich diet. Once the animals’ zinc reached adequate levels, their blood pressure began to drop.
“I wanted to know if you give a mouse a zinc-deficient diet, will it develop hypertension? And my findings said yes,” she said. “It’s because zinc deficiency causes your kidneys to be damaged. It forces the kidneys to re-uptake sodium. And with the re-uptake in sodium you get an increase in blood pressure.”
People get zinc through their diet, with red meat offering the highest intake of zinc.
“What makes someone zinc deficient is they are either not getting enough of it in their diet, or they have a disease that causes their intestines not to absorb it, or their kidneys are not holding on to the zinc,” she said.
She said taking zinc supplements to counter zinc deficiency is not the answer because taking too much zinc may also contribute to high blood pressure. (Story continues below … )
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Williams developed a passion for science at a young age. Growing up in Alabama and Georgia, she was raised by her mother, who worked as a nurse. As a young girl, Williams wanted to become a physician.
“I would line my dolls up against the wall and do an examination,” she recalled.
Her classmates all wanted to be in the same science group as Williams.
“I just had a grasp of science. I was able to understand it and be able to communicate it,” she said.
After graduating from Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery, Alabama, Williams enrolled at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta in the pre-med program. She quickly found that she had a passion for research.
“It was there that I got exposed to science and research that changed it for me,” she said. “It was a physiology class. I liked the fact that we could understand from a cellular, molecular level all the way up to whole person.”
After one of her professors allowed her to do research in his lab, she landed an internship at the Atlanta Waterworks System, where she worked in its microbiology department. She took on a research project that resulted in her presenting her results at an international meeting.
“I got bitten by the bug of the other part of science — the communication part,” she said.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in science at Clark Atlanta, Williams went to graduate school at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where she majored in cellular molecular physiology and began studying the relationship of zinc to diabetes. Read more.