Zinc supplements can reduce the severity and length of cold symptoms.
The findings are published in the Cochrane Library, which reviews the latest evidence on medicines. Researchers analysed data from 15 trials involving 1,360 participants. They concluded that taking zinc syrup, lozenges or tablets within a day of the onset of cold symptoms had a remedial effect.
Both the severity and length of the illness were reduced. After seven days, more patients who took zinc had fought off their colds than those who took dummy “placebos”.
Giving zinc also reduced the use of antibiotics in children. Dr Meenu Singh, from the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, who led the study, said: “This review strengthens the evidence for zinc as a treatment for the common cold. However, at the moment, it is still difficult to make a general recommendation, because we do not know very much about the optimum dose, formulation or length of treatment.”
Zinc is known to be important for the immune system, and deficiency may increase susceptibility to infections.