SAN FRANCISCO – Zinc levels in the body may contribute to kidney stone formation, according to a study released by the University of California San Francisco.

In fact, the study is suggesting that zinc may be at the core of kidney stone formation.

Findings are published online in the journal PLOS ONE.

More than half a million people visit emergency rooms annually complaining of kidney stone pain, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Kidney stone rates have been rising in the United States and are now at 19 percent of men and 9 percent of women suffering from them, according to the foundation.

Scientists at UCSF are trying to find a prevention for kidney stones and are using fruit flies in their studies because the fruit flies process stones in a similar way to humans.

The study looks at the interplay between zinc with oxalate, calcium and other minerals known to make up kidney stones.

Zinc is important for the mineralization and calcification process that leads to urinary stones.

Results are showing that changes in urine oxalate levels tracked well with dietary zinc intake. As zinc levels dropped, the urinary oxalate changed dramatically.

Other environmental factors impacting the development of stones may include drinking too little water, too much or too little exercise, obesity, weight loss surgery, eating too much salt or sugar and family history.

Researchers are saying that once a patient has developed a kidney stone, they are 50 percent more likely to develop another within five years.

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