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Zinc carnosine, a health food supplement that stabilises small bowel integrity and stimulates gut repair processes
  1. A Mahmood1,
  2. A J FitzGerald1,
  3. T Marchbank2,
  4. E Ntatsaki1,
  5. D Murray3,
  6. S Ghosh1,
  7. R J Playford2
  1. 1Department of Gastroenterology, Imperial College, London, UK
  2. 2Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, Centre for Gastroenterology, Barts and The London, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, UK
  3. 3Lonza, Allendale, New Jersey, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor R J Playford
    Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, Barts and The London, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine & Dentistry, Turner Street, London E1 2AD, UK;r.playford{at}


Background: Zinc carnosine (ZnC) is a health food product claimed to possess health-promoting and gastrointestinal supportive activity. Scientific evidence underlying these claims is, however, limited.

Aim: To examine the effect of ZnC on various models of gut injury and repair, and in a clinical trial.

Methods: In vitro studies used pro-migratory (wounded monolayer) and proliferation ([3H]-thymidine incorporation) assays of human colonic (HT29), rat intestinal epithelial (RIE) and canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells. In vivo studies used a rat model of gastric damage (indomethacin/restraint) and a mouse model of small-intestinal (indomethacin) damage. Healthy volunteers (n = 10) undertook a randomised crossover trial comparing changes in gut permeability (lactulose:rhamnose ratios) before and after 5 days of indomethacin treatment (50 mg three times a day) with ZnC (37.5 mg twice daily) or placebo coadministration.

Results: ZnC stimulated migration and proliferation of cells in a dose-dependent manner (maximum effects in both assays at 100 µmol/l using HT29 cells), causing an approximate threefold increase in migration and proliferation (both p<0.01). Oral ZnC decreased gastric (75% reduction at 5 mg/ml) and small-intestinal injury (50% reduction in villus shortening at 40 mg/ml; both p<0.01). In volunteers, indomethacin caused a threefold increase in gut permeability in the control arm; lactulose:rhamnose ratios were (mean (standard error of mean)) 0.35 (0.035) before indomethacin treatment and 0.88 (0.11) after 5 days of indomethacin treatment (p<0.01), whereas no significant increase in permeability was seen when ZnC was coadministered.

Conclusion: ZnC, at concentrations likely to be found in the gut lumen, stabilises gut mucosa. Further studies are warranted.

  • ANOVA, analysis of variance
  • BrdU, bromodeoxyuridine
  • BSA, bovine serum albumin
  • DMEM, Dulbecco’s modified Eagle medium
  • EGF, epidermal growth factor
  • HPLC, high-pressure liquid chromatography
  • NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
  • RIE, rat intestinal epithelium
  • ZnC, zinc carnosine

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  • Published Online First 15 June 2006

  • Funding: This work was partially funded by the Wexham Park Gastrointestinal Trust grant number 2004/6772, a DDF/Belmont Trust Award, Lonza Nutrition, USA and M&M Veterinary Health, USA.

  • Competing interests: The use of extended health claims for ZnC is currently under consideration by the Federal Drug Administration (USA). RJP provided evidence of relevant data at their hearing.

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