Up to 20% of adult patients with Thalassemia major (Thal) live with diabetes, while 30% may be zinc deficient. The objective of this study was to explore the relationship between zinc status, impaired glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in Thal patients. Charts from thirty subjects (16 male, 27.8 ± 9.1 years) with Thal were reviewed. Patients with low serum zinc had significantly lower fasting insulin, insulinogenic and oral disposition indexes (all p
< 0.05) and elevated glucose response curve, following a standard 75 g oral load of glucose compared to those with normal serum zinc after controlling for baseline (group × time interaction p
= 0.048). Longitudinal data in five patients with a decline in serum zinc over a two year follow up period (−19.0 ± 9.6 μg/dL), showed consistent increases in fasting glucose (3.6 ± 3.2 mg/dL) and insulin to glucose ratios at 120 min post glucose dose (p
= 0.05). Taken together, these data suggest that the frequently present zinc deficiency in Thal patients is associated with decreased insulin secretion and reduced glucose disposal. Future zinc trials will require modeling of oral glucose tolerance test data and not simply measurement of static indices in order to understand the complexities of pancreatic function in the Thal patient.
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