Taking zinc supplements can lessen the severity and duration of the common cold, experts believe.
A review of the available scientific evidence suggests that taking zinc within a day of the onset of cold symptoms speeds recovery. It may also help to ward off colds, say the authors of the Cochrane Systematic Review, that included data from 15 trials involving 1,360 people.
“This review strengthens the evidence for zinc as a treatment for the common cold”
Lead researcher Meenu Singh, of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, said: “This review strengthens the evidence for zinc as a treatment for the common cold. However, at the moment, it is still difficult to make a general recommendation, because we do not know very much about the optimum dose, formulation or length of treatment”.
Adults catch between two to four colds a year, children up to ten a year, and there is little a person can do to avoid these infections because the viruses that cause colds are so commonplace. Cold viruses can be passed from person to person not only by coughs and sneezes, but also by touching contaminated surfaces such as door handles.
There is no proven treatment for the common cold, but experts believe zinc medications may aid in stopping the virus from entering the body through the thin lining of the nose. And in laboratory tests, zinc appears to stop the virus from replicating.
There is also the suggestion that zinc aids the immune system and may dampen down some of the unpleasant reactions the body has to an invading virus. And having a weak immune system can decrease our sex drive.
Zinc is involved in sugar metabolism and seems to be easily lost from the system. Pregnant and lactating women require extra zinc. Taking zinc in the form of zinc gluconate facilitates more efficient absorption.