Zinc deficiency in liver cirrhosis: a curiosity or a problem?


Marchetti P, Amodio P, Caregaro L, Gatta A




Ann Ital Med Int


This article reviews the literature on the role of zinc in liver cirrhosis and dietary zinc supplementation for cirrhotic patients with hepatic encephalopathy. Zinc is a trace metal found in many proteins and enzymes having catalytical, cocatalytical and structural functions. Zinc deficiency has been demonstrated in cirrhotic patients, and dietary supplementation of this metal could benefit the urea cycle, glucose and protein metabolism, and central nervous system neurotransmission in these subjects. After some brief considerations on normal zinc metabolism, the role zinc plays in the central nervous system, and its conduct in patients with hepatic encephalopathy, possible links between zinc deficiency and the pathophysiology of central nervous system dysfunction in cirrhotic patients are discussed. The article concludes with a critical review of favorable and unfavorable evidence for zinc supplementation in patients with hepatic encephalopathy.