Dear Dr. Mo: Is Zinc helpful in treating the common cold? Should I use it?
Dear reader: When we catch the infamous cold (acute upper respiratory tract infection), sometimes the symptoms may be severe enough that we reach out to anything that has even a hint of a promise of a quick cure.
The truth is, there’s no effective cure other than our own immune system and yet, many supplements are out on the market claiming to boost the immune response and help us fight off the virus.
Evidence is strong against any substantial effectiveness of any of these supplements.
Healthy diet and exercise remain the only sure fire ways to overcome the common cold – yes, even while you’re sick, if you can, you should moderately exercise (or at least stay active) and not rest for too long – this will speed up the recovery.
Zinc time and again emerges as one of the supplements suggested to help us fight the common cold but, does it work?
The systematic review of 7 randomized control trials (Cochrane Database of Systematic Review 2006, Issue 3) investigated the effects of Zinc lozenges for cold symptoms. Only two trials suggested some effectiveness in reducing severity and duration of symptoms but overall, the lozenges did not appear to be effective.
The evidence for Zinc lozenges treating the common cold is inconclusive and there is potential for side effects like copper and iron deficiency, corrosive effects on the stomach, depressed immunity (although deficiency does it too) and damage to nerve receptors of the sense of smell in the nose, especially from intranasal spays.
I’d suggest the obvious: eat well and healthy when you’re hungry (Oysters and pumpkin seeds for instance are a rich source of Zinc), be active and exercise and if the common cold hits just ride it out. Watch out for any worsening of symptoms after 5 – 7 days as this may suggest something more than just a cold so make sure you stay in touch with a doctor.
Yours in health,