Zinc the cold fighter returns

Scientists still haven’t discovered
a cure for the common cold, but researchers now say zinc may be the next best
thing.

A sweeping new review of the
medical research on zinc shows that sniffing, sneezing, coughing and
stuffy-headed cold sufferers finally have a better option than just tissue and
chicken soup.

When taken within 24 hours of the
first runny nose or sore throat, zinc lozenges, tablets or syrups can cut colds
short by an average of a day or more and sharply reduce the severity of
symptoms, according to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, a respected
medical clearinghouse.

In some of the cited studies, the
benefits of zinc were significant.

A March 2008 report in The Journal
of Infectious Diseases, for example, found that zinc lozenges cut the duration
of colds to four days from seven days, and reduced coughing to two days from
five.

While the findings are certain to
send droves of miserable cold sufferers to the drugstore in search of zinc
treatments, the study authors offered no guidance on what type of zinc product
to buy.

The authors declined to make
recommendations about the optimal dose, formulation or duration of zinc use,
saying that more work was needed before they could make recommendations.

Zinc experts say that many
over-the-counter zinc products may not be as effective as those studied by
researchers because commercial lozenges and syrups often are made with
different formulations of zinc and various flavours and binders that can alter
the effectiveness of the treatment.

Even so, the new report gives
credence to the long-debated theory that zinc can be an effective treatment for
colds.

While it’s not certain how the
mineral curbs colds, it appears to have antiviral properties that prevent the
cold virus from replicating or attaching to nasal membranes.