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Coming Down with a Cold? Reach for Some Zinc

Zinc can be effective at reducing the severity of a cold, according to researchers at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education in India. Their findings were published in the February 2011 edition of The Cochrane Collaboration.

The researchers reviewed fifteen clinical trials that consisted of approximately 1,500 participants altogether. Thirteen of the trials were therapeutic and two were preventative. The participants were given zinc syrup, lozenges or tablets.

In the therapeutic trials, participants were given zinc for at least five consecutive days to treat a cold. In the preventative trials, participants were given zinc for at least five months to prevent the common cold.

A review of the studies’ results showed that the duration and severity of the common cold was reduced for the participants in therapeutic trials. Specifically, after seven days, more participants who took the zinc had relieved their symptoms compared to those who took the placebo.

When taken as a preventative measure, zinc reduced the incidence of the common cold as well as the need to use antibiotics.

The common cold is one of the most prevalent illnesses worldwide. It is estimated that adults suffer from the common cold 2 to 4 times annually, and that children may suffer up to 12 times annually. According to the researchers, cold-related work loss accounts for over $20 billion of economic loss per year.

There is no proven treatment for the common cold, but it appears that zinc can at least alleviate the symptoms, and possibly even prevent the onset. In-vitro tests have shown that zinc has antiviral properties, which would explain its effectiveness in combating the common cold.

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