Taking Zinc supplements could help to cure coughs and colds and speed up your recovery by TWO days, study claims
- Researchers examined if zinc could reduce the risk of respiratory infections
- Studies found vitamin slightly reduced infection rates and cut length of illness
- But it is unclear how much should be taken and how long for, they found
Coughs and colds could be staved off by taking zinc supplements, a study suggests.
Australian researchers reviewed dozens of studies looking at the nutrient’s effect on respiratory tract infections.
They concluded there’s ‘some evidence’ zinc may prevent symptoms, which can also include a runny nose, high temperature and headaches.
And the illness clears up two days earlier among people taking the supplement, on average.
But the team admitted more trials were needed before saying it can work against Covid.
Zinc is important for immune function, inflammation and digestion and is found in meat, shellfish, cheese and bread.
The NHS says people can get all of the recommended amount — 9.5mg for men and 7mg for women —through a varied and balanced diet.
Health chiefs also warn against taking too much of the nutrient through supplements because it reduces how much copper the body can absorb — which can lead to an iron deficiency and weakened bones.
Researchers concluded there is ‘some evidence’ zinc may prevent symptoms — such as coughing, congestion and a sore throat — and shorten the duration of respiratory infections
Academics at Western Sydney University examined 28 existing trials of zinc on RTIs involving almost 5,500 people.
The review, published in BMJ Open, found taking zinc orally or through a nasal spray prevented five respiratory tract infections in 100 people per month.
What does zinc do?
Zinc helps with making new cells and enzymes and healing wounds.
It also processes carbohydrates, fat and protein from food.
Good sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, bread, cereal and dairy foods, such as cheese.
An man needs around 9.5mg of zinc per day, while a woman requires around 7mg.
Taking too much zinc reduces the amount of copper the body can absorb, which can lead to anemia and weakened bones.
Health chiefs say you should be able to get all the zinc required from eating a balanced diet.
They advise against taking more than 25mg supplements of zinc per day unless told to by a doctor.
And people who took zinc got better two days earlier on average, compared to those given a placebo supplement.
Some 19 more adults per 100 still had symptoms on the seventh day of illness if they didn’t have zinc, according to trial data.
The vitamin didn’t improve patients’ average daily symptom severity, but there was an improvement on day three among those who took it, compared to those who did not.
However, supplements didn’t reduce the risk of developing symptoms after catching rhinovirus — one of the major causes of the common cold.
And those who took zinc were 40 per cent more likely to have mild side effects, such as nausea and mouth or nose irritation.
The studies did not identify any serious side effects from taking zinc, but the researchers said these ‘cannot be ruled out’ because the studies were small, so may not identify rare events.
Researchers said they could not examine whether the vitamin was effective against Covid because results from these trials were pending at the time of their analysis.
The vitamin was touted as a Covid treatment earlier in the pandemic, but trials have since found that it has no noticeable effect.
The team concluded zinc is a viable option for people seeking to self-manage respiratory infections because it appears to have ‘marginal benefits’ and does not carry potential risks of other over-the-counter medication.
But lead researcher Dr Jennifer Hunter said there is ‘considerable uncertainty’ over how zinc should be taken.
A recommended dose is yet to be determined, but as little as 15mg per day may be effective, their analysis found.