• Atherosclerosis;
  • Cholesterol;
  • Inflammation;
  • Western diet;
  • Zinc deficiency


Cardiovascular health is strongly influenced by diet. Zinc has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties but its long-term influence on vascular health at dietary intake levels relevant to the human population in developed countries has not been studied. We investigated the influence of suboptimal zinc intake in a Western-type diet on the development of vascular inflammation and arterial plaque in apoE knock-out (AEKO) mice.

Methods and results

Weanling AEKO and wild-type (WT) controls were given high saturated fat (21% w/w) and high cholesterol (0.15%) semi-synthetic diets containing 3 or 35 mg Zn/kg (AEKO and WT) or 8 mg Zn/kg (AEKO only) for over 6 months. AEKO mice on zinc intakes of 3 and 8 mg Zn/kg (suboptimal zinc) developed significantly (p < 0.05) more aortic plaque than AEKO mice consuming 35 mg Zn/kg (adequate zinc). Circulating levels of interleukin-1β, interleukin-6 and soluble vascular adhesion molecule-1 were significantly (p < 0.05) raised at the lowest zinc intake in AEKO mice, as compared to zinc-adequate controls. Plasma total cholesterol and total protein were also significantly (p < 0.05) increased at the lowest zinc intake.


We propose that suboptimal dietary zinc intake raises circulating pro-atherogenic lipoprotein levels that promote vascular inflammation and enhance arterial plaque formation.