Zinc may fight liver disease in a way scientists never expected, say Australian researchers who found that zinc naturally inhibits the inflammatory effects of interferon lambda 3 (IFN-λ3), a protein strongly associated with tissue damage in chronic liver disease. IFN-λ3 also decreases antiviral activity and increases viral replication both in vitro and in vivo.
The study’s lead author Dr. Scott Read said the study provides the first evidence that zinc can act as a potent and specific inhibitor of IFN-λ3 in viral infections such as hepatitis C and influenza.
“We have demonstrated that zinc inhibits numerous facets of the liver’s immune response to viruses that may be mediated by IFN-λ3,” Read said.
“Zinc also blocks the inflammatory activity of IFN-λ3, which has been strongly linked to accelerated progression to liver cirrhosis in viral and non-viral liver disease,” Read says.
In an article published in Nature Communications, Read concluded that the study showed zinc’s potential as a simple and effective treatment against acute and chronic liver inflammation.
Other natural substances have been found to be effective against liver disease. A 2016 study conducted at the University of Southampton found that two cups of coffee a day reduced the risk of liver cirrhosis — scarring due to alcohol and viruses like hepatitis C — by 44 percent. The study, which was published in the science journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, also found that coffee cut the risk of dying from cirrhosis by almost half.
Drugs have also been found to be effective against liver disease. The common anti-inflammatory drug called Nasalcrom (cromolyn sodium) that’s used to treat allergies and asthma could prevent liver disease and reduce the need for liver transplants, according to Texas researchers who found that the medication prevents cells from releasing an inflammatory compound called histamine.