Zinc supplementation decreases the development of atherosclerosis in rabbits
Developing atherosclerotic plaques in cholesterol-fed rabbits are enriched in iron but depleted in zinc. In order to examine further the role of zinc, New Zealand White rabbits were fed a high-cholesterol 1% (w/w) diet with zinc (1 g/kg) supplementation for 8 weeks. After the 8-week period, the average atherosclerotic lesion cross-sectional areas in the aortas of the animals fed with the zinc supplement were significantly decreased (1.0 mm2) compared with lesion areas of the animals fed only on the high-cholesterol diet (3.1 mm2). Using nuclear microscopy, a technique for mapping and measuring trace elements in tissue sections, lesion zinc levels (24 ppm) were observed to be unchanged in the zinc-fed rabbits compared to controls. However, average lesion Fe levels in the zinc-fed group were measured at 32 ppm, whereas in the control group the average Fe levels were significantly higher at 43 ppm (P = 0.03). Our data support the concept that zinc may have an antiatherogenic effect by decreasing iron levels in the lesion, possibly leading to inhibition of iron-catalyzed free radical reactions.