Zinc is important for the immune system, and deficiency is thought to increase susceptibility to infections and disease. Zinc is also required for healthy reproduction and growth, wound-healing, insulin production and natural resistance to disease.
The new findings are published in The Cochrane Library, which reviews the latest evidence on medicines. Researchers analyzed 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 placebos. Zinc also reduced the use of antibiotics in children.
Antibiotics are not effective against viruses such as those responsible for colds and flu, and over-use can lead to the development of resistant bacteria.
The lead researcher of 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."
Sources of zinc
Zinc is a trace mineral, so only a small amount is needed daily. All seeds and nuts, especially pumpkin seeds are high in zinc. meat, shellfish, fish, cheese, eggs are also good sources.
An easy way to take in extra zinc is to eat natural honey. Honey is one of the richest natural sources of zinc, and as an added bonus, it also has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
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