Many people take a zinc supplement at the first sign of a cold, and there’s new evidence supporting the habit.
Australian researchers found that the supplements appear to help shorten respiratory tract infections, such as colds, flu, sinusitis and pneumonia.
Many over-the-counter cold and cough remedies offer only “marginal benefits,” the researchers note, making “zinc a viable ‘natural’ alternative for the self-management of non-specific [respiratory tract infections].”
How does zinc help?
According to Jennifer Hunter, associate professor at the NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University in Penrith, New South Wales and her team, zinc as a nutrient has gained attention from researchers because it’s known to play an important role in immunity, inflammation, tissue injury, blood pressure and in tissue responses to any lack of oxygen.
The zinc was taken in the following ways with doses varying substantially, depending on the formulation and whether zinc was used for prevention or treatment:
- Nasal sprays
Which form of zinc works best?
Compared with placebo, zinc lozenges or nasal spray were estimated to prevent about five new respiratory tract infections in 100 people per month, and the effects were strongest for reducing the risk of more severe symptoms, such as fever and flu-like illness. However, these findings are based on only three studies, the team notes.
On average, symptoms cleared up two days earlier with the use of either a zinc spray or liquid formulation taken under the