Professor John Beattie

Professor_John_Beattie

Professor
John Beattie

Zinc nutrition and health

Minerals such as zinc have a large impact on human health and are present in high quantities in particular foods. I am studying the impact of consuming low zinc foods on our health, including the effect on the immune system and the heart and blood vessels.

Using information from this research, I am investigating foods that can improve zinc status and health - these include Scottish beef and Scottish potatoes fortified with zinc.

This research will help the food industry to improve the health benefits of their products and promote economic competitiveness.


Zinc deficiency affects one third of the World’s population and is recognised by the WHO as a critical global nutritional deficiency. Zinc is required for the proper function of over 2500 proteins and deficiencies give rise to impaired growth, development and immunity. Even in developed countries, marginal zinc deficiency is likely to be prevalent and may have important consequences for the pathogenesis of chronic diseases.
In rodent studies, we have found that zinc deficiency compromises vascular health, inducing apoptosis in vascular smooth muscle cells and accelerating the development of vascular inflammation and atherosclerotic plaque formation. We have shown that these effects are due to the zinc-regulated production of a low molecular weight humoral factor whose adverse bioactivity in vascular smooth muscle cells is also regulated by zinc. Thus, this secondary messenger is under dual control by zinc.
The humoral factor is also a key potential indicator of zinc status and disease risk, and so it is being evaluated to assess the health benefits of consuming zinc-rich Scottish foods and zinc-biofortified potatoes.

Specifically, I aim to:

  • Identify and characterise the low molecular weight humoral factor
  • Asses its utility as a zinc status and vascular health risk biomarker
  • Demonstrate the health benefits of consuming zinc-rich Scottish foods

Research Projects

  • Human Biomarkers of Zinc Status (HuBZS) study funded by the Department of Health
  • Global Research Network Program grant from the National Research Foundation of Korea and University of Aberdeen, on zinc status and vascular smooth muscle cell function
  • Zinc deficiency and atherosclerosis, funded by the Scottish Executive Rural and Environment Affairs Department
  • Anti-obesogenic properties of phytochemicals, funded by the Korea Food Research Institute
  • Effect of selenium speciation and dose on atherosclerosis, funded by the British Heart Foundation
  • The role for zinc in the inflammatory response to sepsis, funded by the Intensive Care Society

Research team

Dr Joanna Kaniewski - Research Fellow
Margaret-Jane Gordon
- Research Assistant


  • Human Biomarkers of Zinc Status (HuBZS) study funded by the Department of Health
  • Healthy, safe diets, funded by the Scottish Executive Rural and Environment Affairs Department
  • The role for zinc in the inflammatory response to sepsis, funded by the Intensive Care Society

  • Duthie, SJ., Beattie, JH., Gordon, M-J, Pirie, LP., Nicol, F., Reid, MD., Duncan, GJ., Cantlay, L., Horgan, G. & McNeil, CJ. (2015). 'Nutritional B vitamin deficiency alters the expression of key proteins associated with vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and migration in the aorta of atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E null mice'. Genes & Nutrition, vol 10, no. 1, 446.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1007/s12263-014-0446-y
  • Urgast, DS., Beattie, JH. & Feldmann, J. (2014). 'Imaging of trace elements in tissues: with a focus on laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry'. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, vol 17, no. 5, pp. 431-439.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000087
  • Alcantara, EH., Shin, MY., Feldmann, J., Nixon, GF., Beattie, JH. & Kwun, IS. (2013). 'Long-term zinc deprivation accelerates rat vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation involving the down-regulation of JNK1/2 expression in MAPK signaling'. Atherosclerosis, vol 228, no. 1, pp. 46-52.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2013.01.030
    [Link] http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84876787149&partnerID=8YFLogxK
  • Ou, O., Allen-Redpath, K., Urgast, D., Gordon, M-J, Campbell, G., Feldmann, J., Nixon, GF., Mayer, C-D, Kwun, I-S & Beattie, JH. (2013). 'Plasma zinc’s alter ego is a low-molecular-weight humoral factor'. The FASEB Journal, vol 27, no. 9, pp. 3672-3682.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1096/fj.13-228791
  • Allen-Redpath, K., Ou, O., Beattie, JH., Kwun, I-S, Feldmann, J. & Nixon, GF. (2013). 'Marginal dietary zinc deficiency in vivo induces vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis in large arteries'. Cardiovascular Research, vol 99, no. 3, pp. 525–534.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1093/cvr/cvt114
  • Ou, O., Allen-Redpath, K., Urgast, D., Gordon, M-J, Campbell, G., Feldmann, J., Nixon, GF., Mayer, C-D, Kwun, I-S & Beattie, JH. (2013). 'Plasma zinc's alter ego is a low-molecular-weight humoral factor'. The FASEB Journal, vol 27, no. 9, pp. 3672-3682.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1096/fj.13-228791
    [Link] http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84881278151&partnerID=8YFLogxK

Research briefs for the Knowledge Scotland web site

Policy Documents

Editorial Board Membership

Cardiovascular Toxicology
Nutrition Research and Practice
Regenerative Medicine Research