Do Zinc Depleted Pancreases Cause Type-1 Diabetes?

“Iron that replaces zinc and other minerals in the pancreas, adrenals and elsewhere can contribute to impaired blood sugar tolerance and diabetes,” says Dr. Wilson in his article Toxic Metals and Detoxification.

My type-1 diabetic wife and I have been studying the theories behind Dr. Wilson’s Nutritional Balancing Science. It has been the next step in our quest to save Nicole’s life.

As I understand Nutritional Balancing, it theorizes that the wrong minerals in the wrong places in the body cause most diseases.

Dr. Wilson suggests that instead of zinc the pancreases of type-1 diabetics may sometimes be overloaded with iron. Writing about high-iron or bronze diabetes, Dr. Wilson says in his article Diabetes, A 21st Century Epidemic:

Iron replaces zinc and other metals in the pancreas and the blood sugar starts to rise. It can easily become over 400 mg/dL and this type can be a so-called brittle diabetes, in that it can be hard to control.

Low zinc can predispose one to iron, copper and other toxic metal poisoning that can affect the pancreas and other organs.

Lack of zinc may not sound like a likely reason for islet cell failure. Nonetheless the  Journal of the American College of Nutrition (1998) states: “[Zinc] plays a clear role in the synthesis, storage and secretion of insulin…”

Not only that, but the zinc in insulin may be critical to stopping blood sugar from rising between meals. This week I found a study involving lots of rats published by the American Diabetes Association (2007) from Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Washington. When these diabetic rats were given zinc-free insulin they continued to produce glucagon unceasingly. (Glucagon stimulates the liver to release stored sugar into the bloodstream.)

So the zinc in insulin stops the liver from endlessly raising the blood sugar, according to the rats. My human wife would concur. Even when fasting, without insulin injections, Nicole’s type-1 blood sugar levels keeps on rising. The liver keeps on dumping more and more sugar into her bloodstream. We saw this happen quite quickly whenever her (currently retired) insulin pump malfunctioned.

So zinc is critical to insulin production in many ways. Now, if Dr. Wilson’s theory is correct, instead of zinc, the pancreas of a type-1 diabetic may be overloaded with iron. And, it seems, iron isn’t a suitable replacement for zinc.

In the same article Dr. Wilson writes:

[High-iron diabetes] is less common, and seen more in men and more in the African-American population. Those who have it are often slender, have a good build, and are often careful eaters. They often have cardiovascular disease as well. They usually have not overeaten on carbohydrates, although some have.

Well, Nicole’s of Irish descent, not African. She does have a slender build (though she might disagree… women). On our first date (lunch at an Indian restaurant in Toronto) she warned me she was very careful about what she ate. Yes, she does qualify for a cardiovascular disease sticker. And she didn’t overeat on carbs as a kid (at least no more than the rest of our sugar-addicted population).

Dr. Wilson also says:

They may have eaten a lot of red meat or other sources of iron, although their problem is handling the iron they have, not necessarily eating too much iron. They are often diagnosed with diabetes because they start to lose weight.

Nicole says she didn’t overeat on red meat growing up. She did, however, eat lots of iron-enriched white bread. And she certainly was losing weight before being diagnosed with diabetes.

If iron is replacing zinc in the insulin that could explain the rapid weight loss. Without zinc the liver would continue to produce glucagon. Glucagon would deplete the liver’s store of sugar. At that point the liver starts breaking down muscle tissue and turning it into sugar (which then gets urinated out of the body). And, of course, without insulin there is no fat storage taking place.

Dr. Wilson also says that those with high-iron/low-zinc diabetes are often stubborn and have a strong personality. That’s Nicole (though she’s softening up).

“People who are angry appear to retain more iron,” says Dr. Wilson. “This is a common finding in some cancer patients and in diabetics.” Nicole, likewise, has always been quick to anger. I had assumed this was solely a result of irratic blood sugars, but I now suspect there is more to it. I’ve noticed at least one type-1 diabetic who has an impressive 4.3% A1C (due to a low-carb diet) is easily irritated and borders on anger.

Dr. Wilson also says: “High-iron diabetics may be fast or slow oxidizers…” Nicole’s hair analysis showed she was a very slow oxidizer. This refers to how her body turns food into energy.

Wilson also says that hair analysis tests of type-1 diabetics suffering from iron toxicity “reveal elevated tissue iron (above 2 mg%) or hidden iron toxicity.” Nicole’s iron was 0.7  mg% — which indicates hidden iron toxicity.

So Nicole has most of the signs which Dr. Wilson’s clinical experience has shown indicates iron-toxicity. I’ve written previously about how bacteria may feed off the iron in the pancreas. Such an infection causes a autoimmune reaction which shuts down insulin production. Likewise, I’ve written previously about how Nicole’s kidney failure shows strong indication of iron toxicity.

So why would the iron be accumulating in her pancreas? Is it because of a lack of zinc? When the body couldn’t get enough zinc it tried using iron instead — and clogged up the works?

Due to modern farming methods many researchers believe that almost everybody is deficient in zinc. So this could be one reason.

Another reason could be rooted in the digestive system. Even the mainstream medical system recognizes the correlation between inflammatory bowel disease and type-1 diabetes. Type-1 diabetics may not have been breaking down zinc-rich foods (like meat) properly. Digestive enzymes also use zinc. So a depletion in zinc would further weaken the digestive system. An even weaker digestive system would then have even more trouble getting zinc out of the food.

Either way, as the theory seems to go, the body develops a zinc deficiency. At the same time it may have been faced with an iron-overload issue. So it did the best with the minerals at hand and started pouring iron into the pancreas instead of zinc.

This caused the body to produce zinc-free insulin. Zinc-free insulin caused the liver to pump out sugar without limit.

Then, to make matters worse, some iron-loving bacteria took over the pancreas. It quickly nailed a “Out of Order” sign over top of the beta cells.

Of course, there are many ways this could play out. But this swapping-iron-for-zinc concept does seem like a solid theory. Or, at least, some other mineral (e.g. mercury, manganese, etc.) serving as a poor replacement part for zinc.

According to Dr. Wilson zinc levels lower than 12 mg% on a hair analysis show a deficiency in zinc. Nicole’s zinc levels were measured at 19 mg%. Does that mean that she’s not deficient? Her situation is very complicated. With her kidneys not working she easily accumulates excess minerals. If she was urinating regularly her hair might not be showing such high levels of zinc. Either way, it does indicate that her body is having trouble using the zinc she’s consuming.

Which leads to the whole issue of bioavailbity. Just because she has zinc in the body doesn’t mean she can absorb it properly. I suspect her leaky gut lets minerals enter her bloodstream before they have been properly broken down into a useful form.

So what are we going to do about reversing this ron toxicity and zinc depletion? Nicole’s following a Nutritional Balancing program Dr. Wilson set up specifically for Nicole through our practitioner, Pam Marshall. I’ll write a thorough explanation of the entire program in a future article, but here are some specifics:

  • Detox the Iron (And Other Toxins): Nicole’s doing this through her skin (using a near-infrared heat lamp and salt baths) and via her liver and colon (using coffee enemas, trimethylglycine and kelp).
  • Repairing the Gut: Nicole’s taking a animal-based digestive enzyme (GB3) and following a nutrient-rich diet of vegetables, meat and bone broth.
  • Supplementation: Nicole has begun to supplement with zinc (along with other key minerals).

Dr. Wilson and others say that detoxing bad iron is slow work. It may take a year before Nicole’s hair analysis shows a rise in iron levels.  Her last test showed 0.7 mg%. Her next test is in September. Hopefully that number will have risen.

For more on iron toxicity leading to an infected pancreas read my previous article “Do Type-1 Diabetics Have an Infected Pancreas?” at:

In a future article I’ll speak more about why we decided to attempt to heal Nicole’s type-1 diabetes using Nutritional Balancing Science. For more information on Dr. Wilson’s approach you can read:

About the Author: John C. A. Manley researches and writes about alternative treatments for type-1 diabetes and its many complications. His wife, Nicole, of 15 years has had type-1 diabetes for four decades. Together they have lowered her HgbA1c below 5.5%, regained thyroid function, increased kidney function and reversed gastroparesis. Read more about their journey out of the T1D matrix or subscribe to their Diabetic Dharma blog..