Zinc-L-carnosine (ZnC) is a chelated compound containing the dipeptide L-carnosine and the essential trace element zinc. Human trials and animal studies have demonstrated the ability of ZnC to promote gastrointestinal (GI) mucosal barrier function through its demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Both zinc and L-carnosine individually promote proper wound healing. However, combining them as ZnC is understood to be superior to either alone, as L-carnosine may help enhance zinc absorption and the delayed or extended release of zinc to tissues.
Zinc is required for over 300 reactions in the body. The richest food sources of zinc include meat, fish, and seafood. One of its many functions is to promote cell proliferation during cellular repair, especially in the epithelial tissue like the intestinal lining. For example, rodent models demonstrate that ZnC significantly increases growth factors, such as vascular endothelial growth, nerve growth factor, and platelet-derived growth factor. Zinc has also been shown to promote the proper formation and stabilization of tight-junction proteins, vital for gut barrier function. L-carnosine is naturally found in meat products and supports proper wound healing and immune health.
Randomized controlled trials (RCT) have shown that ZnC may be clinically beneficial to patients with GI disorders affecting gastric mucosal health, such as those with ulcerative colitis, gastric ulcers, or exercise-induced intestinal permeability. Animal models suggest that ZnC can help promote the healing and function of the gastric mucosa due to its demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This is supported by an RCT (n = 84) where ZnC was administered to individuals with low plasma zinc status. After 12 weeks of supplementation compared to baseline, the subjects displayed a significant 33.07% increase in erythrocyte superoxide dismutase (eSOD) activity, a marker of antioxidant status, compared to only a 2.45% increase in the placebo group.
In one clinical study, patients with confirmed gastric ulcers (n = 258) consumed 150 mg per day of ZnC, a placebo, 800 mg of cetraxate hydrochloride, or its placebo for eight weeks. After four weeks, the ZnC patients experienced superior relief of symptoms and improved gastric ulcers compared to the placebo or other mucosal protection agents. Clinical trials showed similar findings using 50, 75, or 100 mg twice daily of ZnC. ZnC may also promote a healthy intestinal microbial environment, as a systematic review and meta‑analysis (n = 396) concluded that ZnC (around 150 mg per day) should be considered a valuable adjunct in the management of Helicobacter pylori.
Lastly, ZnC can also promote healthy zinc status according to the results of a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of RCTs examining the effect of ZnC supplementation on individuals with a zinc deficiency. Approximately 7.5% to 30% of the global population is estimated to have a zinc deficiency.
ZnC has been shown to promote overall GI health and gastric mucosal health. Research from the last two decades supports that ZnC may be clinically relevant in supporting individuals with an imbalance in GI microflora or certain GI conditions.
By Danielle Moyer Male, MS, CNS, LDN