Zinc May Curb Cold Symptoms
David Rakel, MD,
Director of integrative Medicine at the University of
Wisconsin in Madison
By Lynne Peeples
TUESDAY, February 15 (Health.com)
As everyone knows, there's no cure for the
. So most people simply suffer through two or more colds a year, often
missing days of work or school in the process.
Scientists still haven't found a cure, but a new expert review suggests
supplements may help ease
- and may even prevent viral infections altogether.
Nearly 30 years of research on
and colds have had mixed results and has been marred by iffy studies. To
get a sound big-picture assessment of zinc's benefits, researchers in India
sifted through the evidence and analyzed 15 randomized controlled
trials-the "gold standard" in medical research-that compared zinc with
placebo for the prevention or treatment of the common cold.
When they compiled the evidence, the researchers found that healthy adults
and children who took
zinc syrup, lozenges, or tablets
within 24 hours of their first cough or sniffle experienced shorter and
less severe colds than the participants who took a zinc-free placebo.
Taking zinc reduced the odds that a person would still be experiencing
symptoms at the seven-day mark by more than half.
- the mineral that occurs naturally in nuts, seeds, meats, fruits, and
vegetables-also appeared to help prevent colds. Study participants who took
zinc syrup or lozenges daily for at least five months cut their chances of
developing a cold by about one-third, on average. As a result, the children
in those studies who took zinc missed fewer days of school and took fewer
antibiotics than their peers.
See All LifeSource Vitamins Zinc Products, Articles, and Studies:
"These findings don't surprise me. We're learning that zinc can be quite
helpful," says David Rakel, MD, Director of Integrative Medicine at the
University of Wisconsin in Madison, who was not involved in the review. "We
know it is an important mineral for immune function and that it can inhibit
the replication of some viruses."
Zinc supplements do carry some potential risks. Some of the study
participants experienced nausea and a bad taste in their mouths while
taking zinc, for instance. And zinc supplements can interfere with the
body's uptake of other key minerals such as copper and calcium, Dr. Rakel
The authors of the review, which was published in the Cochrane Library
stopped short of recommending over-the-counter zinc supplements. Because
the studies included in the review were so varied, they wrote, it wasn't
possible to identify an ideal dose, a formulation, or a schedule for taking
Still, Dr. Rakel says, "zinc looks pretty promising. We need to take
precautions, particularly with long-term use, but I'd still recommend it to
my patients at the first sign of cold symptoms."
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