Studies suggest Zinc shortens the duration of a common cold

zinc cold remedy

Several studies found that zinc taken at the onset of cold symptoms helped people get well faster. Image: CC crispy_dewdrops/Flickr

Zinc may limit the duration of the common cold. Recent studies examining the effects of zinc as a cold remedy concluded that people who take zinc when they catch a cold could get well faster. The studies also suggested that taking zinc may lower the chances of catching a cold.

The zinc cold remedy studies

Taking zinc in the form of lozenges or syrups within 24 hours of coming down with a cold shortened colds by one day in the studies. The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research, also found that people who took zinc tended to have milder cold symptoms. The review of zinc as a cold remedy was drawn from 15 studies with 1,360 participants. Subjects ingested either a zinc supplement or a placebo when they started feeling cold symptoms. Colds, which commonly last about a week, were shortened by a day.

How much zinc will fight a cold?

The zinc studies did not reach a conclusion on the recommended daily dose of zinc required to prevent or shorten the common cold. Zinc lozenges and syrups found in pharmacies typically include instructions to take a dose every two to three hours while awake for five days. The standard daily dose for most zinc products used to treat colds is about 60 milligrams in lozenge form and about 30 milligrams in syrup. The Cochrane study did not examine zinc nasal sprays. In 2009 the FDA issued a warning to consumers about Zicam zinc-based nasal sprays after 130 people reported a permanent loss of smell from using them.

Why zinc may fight a cold

No one is sure why zinc could shorten the common cold. Researchers suggest that zinc either prevents cold viruses from attacking nasal cells, slows the replication of the virus or inhibits the body’s production of histamines, which trigger cold symptoms. The body uses trace amounts of zinc for different chemical reactions, including DNA synthesis and cell division. Zinc is also linked to maintaining a healthy immune system and sense of smell and taste.

Sources

Los Angeles Times

Reuters

About.com

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