Zinc for the common cold

Why you need Zinc.
Dr Sam Bailey

Published on 5 Aug 2020


What is Zinc?
Zinc is an essential trace element, which means that the body cannot generate it on its own or store it; it has to come from your diet.

Dietary Sources of Zinc:
• Chicken and other poultry.
• Seafood, particularly shellfish like oysters, crab, mussels and lobster.
• Nuts.
• Grains, beans, lentils and split peas.
• Spinach.
• Dairy products – milk, yoghurt, cheese.
• Fortified breakfast cereal.
• Red meat

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency:
• Losing weight.
• Not feeling hungry.
• Diarrhoea.
• Having no energy.
• Being more prone to infections, such as colds, coughs and chest infections.
• Losing your hair.
• Skin rashes.
• Problems with eyesight, taste or smell.
• Impotence.
Symptoms in children and adolescents:
• Halting of growth.
• Delayed puberty.
Development of learning difficulty.

Causes of Zinc Deficiency:
• Malnourishment
• Being Vegetarian or Vegan
• Pregnancy & breastfeeding
• Ulcerative Colitis
• Crohn’s Disease
• Coeliac Disease
• Chronic diarrhoea
• Alcohol addiction
• Chronic liver or kidney disease
• Taking high dose iron supplements
• Acrodermatitis enteropathica

Medications that interact with Zinc:
• Penicillamine
• Thiazide diuretics eg Bendrofluazide
• Quinolone and tetracycline antibiotics eg Ciprofloxacin or Doxycycline
Please discuss your medications with your pharmacist if you are unsure.

Zinc Supplement side effects:
• Headaches.
• An unpleasant taste.
• Tummy ache.
• Feeling sick (nausea), or being sick (vomiting).
• Diarrhoea.
• Indigestion.
• Tiredness.
Never take more than the recommended amount, due to the risks of excess zinc.

Cautions of Zinc Supplementation:
• Zinc may accumulate in Acute Kidney Disease
• Those with Haemochromatosis may absorb larger amounts of zinc.
• Excess zinc supplementation can interfere with iron and copper absorption.
• It can also reduce magnesium and calcium absorption.

Medical References & Papers:
1. The accuracy of the Zinc Taste Test method. J Altern Complement Med 2012 Jun;18(6):541-50. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22784
2. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Apr; 2015(4): CD001364. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti
3. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2019 Mar; 9(1): 51–70. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti

Zinc for the common cold


Authors’ conclusions: Zinc administered within 24 hours of onset of symptoms reduces the duration of common cold symptoms in healthy people but some caution is needed due to the heterogeneity of the data. As the zinc lozenges formulation has been widely studied and there is a significant reduction in the duration of cold at a dose of ≥ 75 mg/day, for those considering using zinc it would be best to use it at this dose throughout the cold. Regarding prophylactic zinc supplementation, currently no firm recommendation can be made because of insufficient data. When using zinc lozenges (not as syrup or tablets) the likely benefit has to be balanced against side effects, notably a bad taste and nausea.

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