Cold and flu symptoms may be alleviated by zinc intake

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Zinc may help to lessen the severity of respiratory infections. 5./15 WEST/Getty Images
  1. Zinc is a trace mineral that has a role in the immune system in humans.
  2. Infections of the respiratory system are frequent and can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
  3. Zinc supplementation, according to a comprehensive review and meta-analysis, may help prevent and shorten the duration of respiratory tract infection symptoms.

Respiratory system disorders are prevalent. Their symptoms might be minimal at times, but they can sometimes be severe.

Influenza, the common cold, and COVID-19 are examples of respiratory tract infections that can be caused by bacteria or viruses.

Researchers are always looking for ways to ameliorate the symptoms, minimize their duration, or even avoid them completely.

According to a recent study published in the journal BMJ Open, consuming zinc may reduce the duration of respiratory tract infection symptoms and potentially avoid them.

What exactly is zinc?

Zinc is a mineral that helps the immune system and is involved in a variety of body activities, including:

  • ell division and growth
  • wound healing
  • the sense of smell and taste
  • breakdown of carbohydrates
  • enhancement of insulin action

Oysters, red meat, chicken, seafood, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products are all high in zinc. Zinc is commonly found in multivitamins. It also comes as nasal sprays and gels, as well as cold lozenges.

The majority of individuals in the United States get adequate zinc from their diet. However, scientists are currently studying the advantages of taking zinc as a supplement. Some researchers are interested in how zinc might defend against viral infections.

Respiratory tract infections

The respiratory tract includes the nose, throat, voice box, trachea, bronchi, and lungs, which are all involved in breathing.

Respiratory infections include a wide range of symptoms. Sneezing, a sore throat, a cough, or a runny nose, for example, are all classic cold symptoms.

Fever, chills, lethargy, body pains, and headache are some of the most significant flu symptoms.

COVID-19 patients may have flu-like symptoms. Fever and chills, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, lethargy, cough, congestion, or a runny nose are all symptoms of COVID-19.

The authors of the current study point out that there are few alternatives for preventing or treating viral respiratory tract infections.

Vaccination is one option, which is why health organizations urge it.

In a recent Facebook post, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended vaccination: “To obtain the best protection against COVID-19 and flu this season, make sure you are vaccinated against both COVID-19 AND flu.” If the timing is right, you may obtain both shots on the same visit!”

However, as the study authors note, “Except for influenza and SARS-CoV-2 vaccinations, prophylactic and therapeutic options are limited.”

As a result, scientists are looking at medicines that might alleviate symptoms or minimize the duration of respiratory tract infections.

Infections and zinc

The research in issue is a randomized controlled trials-focused quick systematic review and meta-analysis.

The researchers discovered the following studies:

  • included adults who were at risk of or had viral respiratory tract infections
  • examined the use of zinc via any dose, route, or duration
  • measured specific outcomes, such as the incidence of respiratory tract infections and symptom severity

Furthermore, studies that looked at zinc as a therapy in conjunction with other medications were particularly omitted.

The researchers looked at 28 trials with a total of 5,446 people using these criteria. SARS-CoV-2 was not the focus of any of the research.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., told Medical News Today that several of the papers they looked at hadn’t been included in earlier systemic reviews:

“I was surprised that only one of the four studies that had evaluated prophylactic zinc had previously been identified and reported in systematic reviews. Two were published in Chinese, and this was a good reminder about why it is so important to search databases in languages other than English.”

The analysis yielded a mixed bag of data. For instance, the researchers discovered:

  • Some people were able to avoid respiratory tract infections by taking zinc orally or intranasally.
  • When compared to placebo, persons who took sublingual or intranasal zinc had their symptoms of respiratory tract infections cured around 2 days sooner.
  • On the third day of measuring the degree of symptoms, ingesting zinc helped to lower symptom severity.

However, they discovered that consuming zinc had no effect on average daily symptom severity. They also found a link between zinc supplementation and more negative side effects, such as nausea and gastrointestinal pain.

Overall, the authors suggest that consuming zinc may help avoid viral respiratory tract infections and lessen the duration of their symptoms in patients who do not have zinc deficiency.

Restrictions and future research

It’s worth noting that the study had certain limitations. To begin, the researchers point out that some of the studies might have been biased. Second, this was a quick analysis, which meant that certain tasks were done by just one reviewer. This raises the possibility of an analytical mistake.

Finally, the authors point out that none of the studies looked particularly at persons with COVID-19, and that further study is needed to see if consuming zinc can assist with COVID-19 symptoms.

Dr. Hunter clarified to MNT that we are “now well into the pandemic and quickly learning that a lot of therapies that have worked for other viral infections don’t necessarily work for COVID-19. We cannot assume the results from these zinc studies apply to COVID-19.”

Zinc, on the other hand, appears to be useful for patients who suffer respiratory tract infections, according to the findings. According to Dr. Hunter:

“I wouldn’t necessarily rush out and start taking zinc, as there is the risk of copper deficiency with ongoing use. However, I would suggest that people with chronic diseases and older adults discuss their dietary zinc intake with their healthcare professionals.”