One of the most effective alternative cures for the common cold has long been thought to be zinc. Many studies have in the past alluded to its potential power in battling the frustrating, recurring illness. A new literature review assessed zinc for its powers and arrived at this conclusion: taking zinc supplements could reduce the severity and duration of illness caused by the common cold.
So get ready to get back on your feet sooner.
The common cold is not only a burden to people, but also to society. It is responsible for about 40% of time taken off work, and millions of days of school missed by children each year. The first suggestions that zinc could work came from a study in 1984. This one showed that zinc lozenges could reduce the length of symptoms. Since then, studies have had some conflicting results. Explanations have been suggested for why zinc could work, but none have been confirmed.
The new review totals 15 studies involving 1,360 people. According to the results, zinc syrup, lozenges or tablets taken within a day of the onset of cold symptoms reduced the severity and length of illness. At seven days, more of the patients who took zinc had cleared their symptoms compared to those who took placebos. Children who took zinc syrup or lozenges for five months or longer caught fewer colds and took less time off school. Zinc also reduced antibiotic use in children, which is important, because overuse has implications for antibiotic resistance.
What this new review does is bolster the evidence for zinc as a treatment for the common cold. Just at face value, there are few alternative remedies that have the ability to work as much as zinc. What still remains to be figured out and optimal dose, formulation and length of treatment.
Further research should focus on the benefits of zinc in defined populations, the review suggests. “Our review only looked at zinc supplementation in healthy people,” said Singh. “But it would be interesting to find out whether zinc supplementation could help asthmatics, whose asthma symptoms tend to get worse when they catch a cold.” The researchers also say that more work needs to be carried out in low-income countries, where zinc deficiency may be prevalent.
Adults should not exceed 40 mg of zinc without a doctor’s supervision. The best bet for colds or throat infections is to suck on zinc lozenges, and the mineral will trickle down your throat.