Research & Education

Zinc L-Carnosine in Promoting Gastrointestinal Health

Zinc L-carnosine (ZnC) is a chelated compound combining L-carnosine and zinc. ZnC may help promote gastrointestinal (GI) mucosal health, intestinal barrier function, and healthy microbial environments in the GI tract. The clinical benefit of ZnC to the GI tract may be due to its localized, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.   

Zinc is essential for wound healing and the body’s natural repair of connective tissue and intestinal lining. L-carnosine holds antioxidant properties and is also crucial for wound healing. L-carnosine enhances zinc absorption due to its solubility and may help deliver zinc to tissues in a delayed or extended-release manner.

Numerous human studies have demonstrated the clinical relevance of ZnC to GI health. For example, individuals taking ZnC supplementation have displayed improved results, healing scores, or symptoms associated with gastric ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, low-dose, aspirin-induced small-bowel mucosal injury, ulcerative colitis, and hemorrhoidal diseases. In vitro studies demonstrate that ZnC may attenuate H. Pylori growth, H. Pylori-mediated gastric inflammation, and H. Pylori bacterial adhesion. 

ZnC has been shown to scavenge superoxide anion and hydroxyl radicals, attenuate lipid peroxidation, and increase the expression of antioxidant enzymes in the gastric and intestinal mucosa. In vitro and animal models demonstrated ZnC to attenuate the overexpression of nuclear factor kappa B (an inflammatory transcription factor) in macrophages and inflammatory factors in damaged gastric mucosa. In cultured endothelial cells or fibroblasts, ZnC increased gene expression of insulin-like growth factor, which plays a vital role in cellular proliferation and differentiation.

ZnC may also support healthy intestinal permeability, as demonstrated by improving epithelial resistance and tight junction structure in vitro and in vivo. A small cross-over study (n = 10) compared the changes in gut permeability (lactulose/rhamnose ratios) before and after five days of NSAID treatment with ZnC (37.5 mg twice daily) or placebo. In the placebo group, there was a threefold increase in intestinal permeability compared to subjects taking ZnC supplementation. ZnC has also been shown to attenuate intestinal permeability after heavy exercise in healthy volunteers

A randomized, controlled, double-blind study (n = 258) assigned subjects with stomach ulcers to receive 150 mg per day of ZnC, 800 mg of cetraxate hydrochloride (a known mucosal protective agent), or a placebo for eight weeks. After eight weeks, the individuals receiving ZnC supplementation had 75% improved symptoms compared to 72% in individuals receiving cetraxate. Furthermore, endoscopic cure rates were observed in 60.4% of subjects taking ZnC, compared to only 46.2% of subjects taking cetraxate. These results are supported by other human clinical trials using ZnC supplementation of 50, 75, or 100 mg twice daily. 

Impairment of the gut barrier and mucosal permeability underscore various GI conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. ZnC may promote overall GI health through its potential benefits on mucosal health, gut barrier function, healthy microbial environments, and promoting healthy inflammatory responses.  

By Danielle Moyer, MS, CNS, LDN