The effect of zinc deficiency on the function of the intestine to absorb water and electrolytes was studied in animal models, stimulated by Vibrio cholerae
enterotoxin. Sprague-Dawley rats, used in the study, were divided into four groups: Zinc-deficient, ad libitum zinc-fed control, zinc weight-matched control, and zinc-deficient acutely-repleted. 14
C-labelled polyethylene glycol solution was used for measuring the absorption capacity of the small intestine. Significantly lower absorption of water and sodium per cm of the intestine was observed in the zinc-deficient animals compared to the ad libitum zinc-fed control animals (p<0.01). An improved absorption capacity was equally observed in the zinc-deficient acutely-repleted animals and ad libitum zinc-fed control group. The zinc-deficient animals showed four times greater cholera toxin-induced net secretions of water and sodium compared to the ad libitum zinc-fed group (p<0.01), while a 40% reduction was observed in the zinc-deficient acutely-repleted group. The results suggest that zinc deficiency is associated with reduced absorption of water and electrolytes and increased secretion of the same stimulated by cholera toxin.