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Hi, I'm Malcolm Woods

I’m the New Media Editor at Outpost, though I’m the old media editor, as well. In both capacities, I read, hear, photograph and write about food. I also eat food pretty regularly, all of which means I spend a lot of time thinking about food in...
Malcolm Woods

Sniffles? Sore throat? Zinc might help

Food, Love and Policy By Malcolm Woods on February 16, 2011

Feel a cold coming on? Zinc might help. In fact, zinc probably will help, either by shortening the cold or by reducing the severity of the cold’s symptoms. 


For more than two decades now, people have added zinc to their cold-fighting arsenal, spraying it in their nostrils or throats, popping tablets or sucking on lozenges. The first scientific study purporting to show a cold-fighting role for zinc was published in 1984, though subsequent studies cast doubt on the mineral’s efficacy.


But now, after taking a look at all of the studies involving zinc that have been conducted over the ensuing years, researchers say there is solid evidence that zinc works. Zinc, taken as a lozenge, tablet or syrup at the first sign of cold symptoms, can shorten the cold by a day or more and significantly reduce symptoms. Some research hinted that regular zinc use could even help ward off colds.


This is great news – a wonderful step in the long march to eradicating the common cold. While we haven’t found the magic antidote yet, it’s encouraging to anyone feeling their first sniffles or scratchy throat to think that there really is something they can do.


Take zinc. Yay!


Unfortunately, the researchers also found much confusion about taking that zinc and offered no recommendations about dosage or even the best way to get that zinc, whether in tablet, lozenge, or syrup form (in the summer of 2009, the Food and Drug Administration warned that a popular homeopathic nasal spray containing zinc could damage or destroy the sense of smell in users and urged consumers to stop using that product).


Want to read more about the review? The New York Times article is here.


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