Thanks to a Washington Post snafu, I just wasted about 15 minutes excoriating reporter Rob Stein for writing an inaccurate column. In fact, his column about a new meta-analysis of the use of zinc for the common cold was correct, except for the fact that the hyperlink pointed to an older study that said pretty much the opposite of the new one. ::snort::
However, despite my annoyance, I still want to write about this, because just the other day in this blog I sneered about using zinc for the common cold! But hey, I can be convinced by science and this analysis is interesting and exciting for those of us who despise the symptoms of the common cold and yet catch a million colds from our kids. According to a review of 15 different trials:
We found that zinc (lozenges or syrup) is beneficial in reducing the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people, when taken within 24 hours of onset of symptoms. People taking zinc are also less likely to have persistence of their cold symptoms beyond seven days of treatment. [Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001364. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub3.]
As the authors note, this study was only on otherwise healthy people, so if you have other health conditions, you should obviously discuss this with your doctor before you take it. I have zero idea how zinc interacts with other conditions and medications, but one hopes your doctor or pharmacist can tell you.
I’m definitely intrigued by a fairly safe method of making oneself feel better and get better faster. I hope they get right on the study of safe dosages and formulations, because I’m not sure I’m willing to experiment on myself! (The side effects they noted here were bad taste and nausea.)
One other caveat: this study is talking about zinc candies and syrup, not the nasal sprays/swabs/gels. Those products are not recommended by the FDA due to the reports linking them to loss of sense of smell.
I don’t know if we’ll ever have a “cure” for the common cold, but anything that helps is good news in my book.