Got a cold? Think zinc, report concludes
Suffering through another miserable bout of sneezing, coughing, and nose-blowing? Could zinc help? Apparently yes, according to an authoritative group that specializes in separating myth from fact when it comes to medical treatments.
Evidence has been accumulating that zinc could reduce the severity and duration of the common cold, which accounts for about 40 percent of all the time taken off of work and millions of days of school missed each year by children. But the evidence has remained mixed, leaving its effectiveness an open question.
After all, there have been lots of so-called "natural" remedies that have been touted for many illnesses that have failed to live up their hype.
But not so for zinc and the common cold, according to The Cochrane Library, an international group that regularly reviews the scientific evidence for therapies.
The new review, released this week, included data from 15 trials involving 1,360 people. Zinc syrup or lozenges taken within a day of the first symptoms reduce the severity and length of the illness, the researchers concluded. After a week, significantly more patients who took zinc no longer had symptoms compared to those who took placebos, the researchers reported. People who took zinc supplements for at least five months were less likely to get colds and miss school because of them, the researchers reported. Zinc also reduced antibiotic use in children, according to the report.
"This review strengthens the evidence for zinc as a treatment for the common cold," said Meenu Singh of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarth, India, who led the research, in a statement released with the report on Tuesday.
Singh noted, however, that there still was insufficient evidence to make specific recommendations about how much zinc to take and for how long. Additional research was also needed to determine the benefits of zinc for specific types of people,
"Our review only looked at zinc supplementation in healthy people," Singh said. "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."
More research was also needed in poor countries, where zinc deficiencies may be common, the researchers said. It also remains unclear how zinc may help alleviate the misery caused by cold viruses.
| February 15, 2011; 7:00 PM ET
Categories: Dietary supplements, Infectious Disease, colds
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