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Zinc is a mineral with a host of roles in the human body, from supporting fertility and proper growth and development to boosting immune function. A deficiency of zinc can make the body more prone to infections. In developing countries where deficiencies of the nutrient are more common, supplementing with zinc helps prevent the common cold, diarrhea, and pneumonia in children.
Some people maintain that zinc lozenges help keep their colds in check, but skeptics argue that evidence for their use is lacking.
In an attempt to sort out the confusion over whether zinc can really help clear up the common cold more quickly, investigators from the Department of Public Health at the University of Helsinki, Finland conducted a review of studies published on the topic.
Thirteen trials were included in the analysis:
None of the studies using less than 75 mg of zinc per day had an effect on the duration of the common cold. However, in seven of the eight studies using more than 75 mg of zinc per day, cold durations were significantly shorter.
Zinc acetate seemed to have the most profound effect on shortening the common cold, with a 42% reduction in the number of sick days. Other forms of zinc lozenges also helped people get better faster, shortening the duration of the cold by 20%.
Some people don’t like the taste of zinc lozenges and others may develop nausea from them, but there have not been reports of long-term side effects associated with their use. “More research is needed on zinc lozenges to find optimal lozenge compositions and treatment strategies,” commented the study’s authors.
When you feel the familiar signals of an impending cold, try these tips to nip it in the bud for a faster return to your healthy self.
(Open Respir Med J 2011;5:51–8)