Zinc deficiency is a potential complication of Crohn's disease and we have searched for evidence of this and assessed the possibility that malabsorption of zinc might be a cause. Serum zinc concentrations in 33 patients suffering from Crohn's disease were significantly lower than in 58 normal control subjects (9 . 18 +/- 2 . 3 mumol compared with 13 . 6 +/- 1 . 73 mumol, P < 0 . 0005). Serum zinc correlated well with serum albumin concentrations and the low serum zinc may simply reflect the low serum albumin. Thus its value as an indicator of zinc deficiency is poor. We studied zinc absorption in seven patients with Crohn's disease and compared it with the results obtained previously in five normal subjects using a new technique involving a short-lived isotope of zinc (69mZn). Plasma appearance curves, constructed after an oral dose of isotope, and disappearance curves, after an intravenous dose, were used in a deconvolution computer programme to calculate zinc absorption. Compared with normal subjects, zinc absorption was considerably impaired in patients with Crohn's disease (range 9--45%, compared with 38--75%). This abnormality is a potential cause of zinc deficiency in patients with Crohn's disease.
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