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Zinc Contributions by ColleenO

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One famous alternative treatment for colds is the use of zinc in nasal gel or lozenges. Taking zinc supplements might also be useful in some cases.1-3 There is a significant amount of research to support the use zinc for colds (and, potentially, the flu).

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One famous alternative treatment for colds is the use of zinc in nasal gel or lozenges. Taking zinc orally as a nutrient supplements might also be useful in some cases.1-3 There is a significant amount of research to support the use zinc for colds (and, potentially, the flu).

... (more)

A 1-year, double-blind study of 50 nursing home residents found that zinc supplements as compared to placebo reduced rates of infection.159 In addition, more than ten other studies performed in developing countries have found that zinc supplements at nutritional doses can increase resistance to respiratory and other infection in children, and that they might reduce symptom severity.5-6,157,165 Use of lozenges containing zinc gluconate or zinc acetate have shown somewhat inconsistent but generally positive results for reducing the severity and duration of the common cold. For example, in a double-blind trial, 100 people who were experiencing the early symptoms of a cold were given a lozenge that either contained 13.3 mg of zinc from zinc gluconate or a placebo.8 Participants took the lozenges several times daily until their cold symptoms subsided. The results were impressive. Coughing disappeared within 2.2 days in the treated group versus 4 days in the placebo group. Sore throat disappeared after 1 day versus 3 days in the placebo group, nasal drainage in 4 days (versus 7 days), and headache in 2 days (versus 3 days). Positive results have also been seen in double-blind studies of zinc acetate.9,10,167 Not all studies have shown such positive results.11 However, the overall results appear to be favorable.12,143

Use of zinc in the nose is somewhat more controversial.144 In addition to showing inconsistent results in studies, use of zinc nasal gel can cause pain and possibly loss of sense of smell.

In one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 213 people with a newly starting cold used one squirt of zinc gluconate gel or placebo gel in each nostril every 4 hours while awake.7 The results were significant: treated participants stayed sick an average of 2.3 days, while those receiving placebo were sick for an average of 9 days, a 75% reduction in the duration of symptoms. Somewhat more modest but still significant relative benefits were seen with zinc nasal gel in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 80 people with colds.103 However, a slightly larger study of a similar zinc gluconate nasal gel found no benefit.113 Another study—this one involving 77 people—failed to find benefit, even with near constant saturation of the nasal passages with zinc gluconate nasal spray.144

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Taking zinc in oral supplement form supports the immune system, which can then be more effective in combating the virus causing your cold.

When you take zinc as a lozenge or nasal gel or spray, you are not using it as a nutrient. Instead, certain forms of zinc release ions that are thought to directly inhibit viruses in the nose and throat.

Also, taking zinc in oral supplement form supports the immune system, which can then be more effective in combating the virus causing your cold or flu, or preventing illness altogether.

... (more)

One famous alternative treatment for colds is the use of zinc in nasal gel or lozenges. Taking zinc supplements might also be useful in some cases.1-3 There is a significant amount of research to support the use zinc for colds (and, potentially, the flu).

... (more)

One famous alternative treatment for colds is the use of zinc in nasal gel or lozenges. Taking zinc supplements might also be useful in some cases. The immune system does not function properly if you don't have enough zinc in your body.1-2 Because zinc is commonly deficient in the diet, especially among children and senior citizens,3 nutritional zinc supplementation may certainly be useful for those who get sick easily There is a significant amount of research to support the use zinc for colds (and, potentially, the flu).

... (more)
  1. Chandra RK. Trace element regulation of immunity and infection. J Am Coll Nutr. 1985;4:5-16.
  2. Fraker PJ, Gershwin ME, Good RA, et al. Interrelationships between zinc and immune function. Fed Proc. 1986;45:1474-1479.
  3. Werbach MR. Nutritional Influences on Illness. [CD-ROM]. Tarzana, CA: Third Line Press; 1998:630.
  4. Girodon F, Lombard M, Galan P, et al. Effect of micronutrient supplementation on infection in institutionalized elderly subjects: a controlled trial. Ann Nutr Metab. 1997;41:98-107.
  5. Bhutta ZA, Black RE, Brown KH, et al. Prevention of diarrhea and pneumonia by zinc supplementation in children in developing countries: Pooled analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Pediatr. 1999;135:689-697.
  6. Sazawal S, Black RE, Jalla S, et al. Zinc supplementation reduces the incidence of acute lower respiratory infections in infants and preschool children: a double-blind, controlled trial. Pediatrics. 1998;102:1-5.
  7. Hirt M, Nobel S, Barron E. Zinc nasal gel for the treatment of common cold symptoms: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Ear Nose Throat J. 2000;79:778-781.
  8. Mossad SB, Macknin ML, Medendorp SV, et al. Zinc gluconate lozenges for treating the common cold: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Ann Intern Med. 1996;125:81-88.
  9. Petrus EJ, Lawson KA, Bucci LR. Randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled clinical study of the effectiveness of zinc acetate lozenges on common cold symptoms in allergy-tested subjects. Curr Ther Res. 1998;59:595-607.
  10. Prasad AS, Fitzgerald JT, Bao B, et al. Duration of symptoms and plasma cytokine levels in patients with the common cold treated with zinc acetate. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2000;133:245-252.
  11. Macknin ML. Zinc gluconate lozenges for treating the common cold in children: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1998;279:1962-1967.
  12. Marshall S. Zinc gluconate and the common cold: review of randomized controlled trials. Can Fam Physician. 1998;44:1037-1042.
  13. Eby GA. Zinc ion availability—the determinant of efficacy in zinc lozenge treatment of common colds. J Antimicrob Chemother. 1997;40:483-493.
  14. Mossad SB. Effect of zincum gluconicum nasal gel on the duration and symptom severity of the common cold in otherwise healthy adults. QJM. 2003;96:35-43.
  15. Turner RB. Ineffectiveness of intranasal zinc gluconate for prevention of experimental rhinovirus colds. Clin Infect Dis. 2001;33:1865-1870.
  16. Eby GA. Zinc lozenges: cold cure or candy? Solution chemistry determinations. Biosci Rep. 2004;24:23-39.
  17. Eby GA, Halcomb WW. Ineffectiveness of zinc gluconate nasal spray and zinc orotate lozenges in common-cold treatment: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Ther Health Med. 2006;12:34-38.
  18. Kurugol Z, Akilli M, Bayram N, et al. The prophylactic and therapeutic effectiveness of zinc sulphate on common cold in children. Acta Paediatr. 2006;95:1175-1181.
  19. Prasad AS, Beck FW, Bao B, et al. Zinc supplementation decreases incidence of infections in the elderly: effect of zinc on generation of cytokines and oxidative stress. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85:837-844.
  20. Kurugol Z, Bayram N, Atik T. Effect of zinc sulfate on common cold in children: Randomized, double blind study. Pediatr Int. 2007;49:842-847.
  21. Prasad AS, Beck FW, Bao B, et al. Duration and severity of symptoms and levels of plasma interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor, and adhesion molecules in patients with common cold treated with zinc acetate. J Infect Dis. 2008 Feb 15.
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Zinc products--supplements, lozenges, and nasal gels and sprays--are widely available in drugstores and health food stores.

Based on a significant amount of research on zinc and colds, supplemental zinc and zinc lozenges have the most favorable evidence and the fewest potential side effects. Though zinc nasal gel has also demonstrated impressive results for treating colds, it can cause pain and possibly loss of sense of smell.

With supplemental zinc, more isn't better; once you do have enough zinc, getting extra won't help, and might even hurt (see Side Effects and Warnings).

It has been suggested that the exact formulation of the zinc lozenge plays a significant role in its effectiveness.13 According to this view, certain flavoring agents, such as citric acid and tartaric acid, might prevent zinc from inhibiting viruses. In addition, chemical forms of zinc other than zinc gluconate or zinc acetate might be ineffective. Zinc sulfate in particular might not work. Along the same lines, sweeteners such as sorbitol, sucrose, dextrose, and mannitol are said to be fine, while glycine has been discussed in an equivocal manner.

... (more)

Safety Issues

Zinc taken orally seldom causes any immediate side effects other than occasional stomach upset, usually when it's taken on an empty stomach. Some forms do have an unpleasant metallic taste. Use of zinc nasal gel, however, has been associated with anosmia (loss of sense of smell). 1 In fact, After receiving over 130 reports of anosmia, the FDA warned consumers and healthcare providers in 2009 to discontinue use of certain Zicam Cold Remedy intranasal zinc-containing products, including Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs and Cold Remedy Swabs in kids size. 2 Furthermore, if the gel is inhaled too deeply, severe pain may occur.

Long-term use of oral zinc at dosages of 100 mg or more daily can cause a number of toxic effects, including severe copper deficiency, impaired immunity, heart problems, and anemia. 3 4 5 Zinc at a dose of more than 50 mg daily might reduce levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. 6 In addition, very weak evidence hints that use of zinc supplements might increase risk of prostate cancer in men. 7 The US government has issued recommendations regarding "tolerable upper intake levels" (ULs) for zinc. The UL can be thought of as the highest daily intake over a prolonged time known to pose no risks to most members of a healthy population. The ULs for zinc are as follows: 8

  • Infants
  • 0-6 months: 4 mg
  • 7-12 months: 5 mg
  • Children
  • 1-3 years: 7 mg
  • 4-8 years: 12 mg
  • 9-13 years: 23 mg
  • Males and Females
  • 14-18 years: 34 mg
  • 19 years and older: 40 mg
  • Pregnant Women and Nursing Women
  • 18 years or younger: 34 mg
  • 19 years and older: 40 mg

There are also some interactions between zinc and certain medications to consider:

Use of zinc can interfere with the absorption of the drug penicillamine and also antibiotics in the tetracycline or fluoroquinolone (Cipro, Floxin) families. 9 10 11 12 13 The potassium-sparing diuretic amiloride was found to significantly reduce zinc excretion from the body. 14 This means that if you take zinc supplements at the same time as amiloride, zinc accumulation could occur. This could lead to toxic side effects. However, the potassium-sparing diuretic triamterene does not seem to cause this problem. 15

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking:

  • ACE inhibitors ; estrogen-replacement therapy ; oral contraceptives ; thiazide diuretics ; or medications that reduce stomach acid (such as H 2 blockers [ Zantac ] or proton pump inhibitors [ Prilosec ]): You may need to take extra zinc.
  • Amiloride : This medication could reduce zinc excretion from the body, leading to zinc accumulation, which could cause toxic side effects. Do not take zinc supplements unless advised by a physician.
  • Manganese ; calcium ; copper ; iron ; antacids ; soy ; or antibiotics in the fluoroquinolone (such as, Cipro , Floxin ) or tetracycline families: It may be advisable to separate your doses of zinc and these substances by at least 2 hours.
  • Penicillamine : Zinc interferes with penicillamine's absorption so it may be advisable to take zinc and penicillamine at least 2 hours apart.
  • Zinc supplements: You should also take extra copper and perhaps magnesium as well because zinc interferes with their absorption. Zinc interferes with iron absorption, too, but you shouldn't take iron supplements unless you know you are deficient.
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Use of lozenges containing zinc gluconate or zinc acetate have shown somewhat inconsistent but generally positive results for reducing the severity and duration of the common cold. For example, in a double-blind trial, 100 people who were experiencing the early symptoms of a cold were given a lozenge that either contained 13.3 mg of zinc from zinc gluconate or a placebo.8 Participants took the lozenges several times daily until their cold symptoms subsided. The results were impressive. Coughing disappeared within 2.2 days in the treated group versus 4 days in the placebo group. Sore throat disappeared after 1 day versus 3 days in the placebo group, nasal drainage in 4 days (versus 7 days), and headache in 2 days (versus 3 days). Positive results have also been seen in double-blind studies of zinc acetate.9,10,167 Not all studies have shown such positive results.11 However, the overall results appear to be favorable.12,143

Use of zinc in the nose is somewhat more controversial.144 In addition to showing inconsistent results in studies, use of zinc nasal gel can cause pain and possibly loss of sense of smell.

In one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 213 people with a newly starting cold used one squirt of zinc gluconate gel or placebo gel in each nostril every 4 hours while awake.7 The results were significant: treated participants stayed sick an average of 2.3 days, while those receiving placebo were sick for an average of 9 days, a 75% reduction in the duration of symptoms. Somewhat more modest but still significant relative benefits were seen with zinc nasal gel in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 80 people with colds.103 However, a slightly larger study of a similar zinc gluconate nasal gel found no benefit.113 Another study—this one involving 77 people—failed to find benefit, even with near constant saturation of the nasal passages with zinc gluconate nasal spray.144

... (more)

When you take zinc as a lozenge or nasal gel or spray, you are not using it as a nutrient. Instead, certain forms of zinc release ions that are thought to directly inhibit viruses in the nose and throat.

Al Also, taking zinc in oral supplement form supports the immune system, which can then be more effective in combating the virus causing your cold or flu, or preventing illness altogether.

... (more)

One famous alternative treatment for colds is the use of zinc in nasal gel or lozenges. Taking zinc supplements might also be useful in some cases.1-3 There is a significant amount of research to support the use zinc for colds (and, potentially, the flu).

... (more)

Enter section content...

When you take zinc as a lozenge or nasal gel or spray, you are not using it as a nutrient. Instead, certain forms of zinc release ions that are thought to directly inhibit viruses in the nose and throat.

Also, taking zinc in oral supplement form supports the immune system, which can then be more effective in combating the virus causing your cold or flu, or preventing illness altogether.

... (more)

One famous alternative treatment for colds is the use of zinc in nasal gel or lozenges. When you take zinc this way, you are not using it as a nutrient. Instead, certain forms of zinc release ions that are thought to directly inhibit viruses in the nose and throat. Taking zinc supplements might also be useful in some cases.1-3 There is a significant amount of research to support the use zinc for colds (and, potentially, the flu).

... (more)

Zinc products--supplements, lozenges, and nasal gels and sprays--are widely available in drugstores and health food stores.

Based on a significant amount of research on zinc and colds, supplemental zinc and zinc lozenges have the most favorable evidence and the fewest potential side effects. Though zinc nasal gel has also demonstrated impressive results for treating colds, it can cause pain and possibly loss of sense of smell.

With supplemental zinc, more isn't better; once you do have enough zinc, getting extra won't help, and might even hurt (see Side Effects and Warnings).

It has been suggested that the exact formulation of the zinc lozenge plays a significant role in its effectiveness.13 According to this view, certain flavoring agents, such as citric acid and tartaric acid, might prevent zinc from inhibiting viruses. In addition, chemical forms of zinc other than zinc gluconate or zinc acetate might be ineffective. Zinc sulfate in particular might not work. Along the same lines, sweeteners such as sorbitol, sucrose, dextrose, and mannitol are said to be fine, while glycine has been discussed in an equivocal manner.

... (more)

One famous alternative treatment for colds is the use of zinc in nasal gel or lozenges. Taking zinc supplements might also be useful in some cases.1-3 There is a significant amount of research to support the use zinc for colds (and, potentially, the flu).

... (more)

When you take zinc as a lozenge or nasal gel or spray, you are not using it as a nutrient. Instead, certain forms of zinc release ions that are thought to directly inhibit viruses in the nose and throat.

Also, taking zinc in oral supplement form supports the immune system, which can then be more effective in combating the virus causing your cold or flu, or preventing illness altogether.

... (more)

A nutritionist or health professional who includes nutrition in their practice--such as a doctor or naturopath--may be knowledgeable about zinc as a treatment for acne.

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Zinc is an important element that is found in every cell in the body. More than 300 enzymes in the body need zinc in order to function properly. The effect of zinc on acne is not clear, though studies show that many people with acne have a zinc deficiency, which is common in the general population.

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Edited Acne and Zinc: How to Use Zinc 8 years ago

For most purposes, zinc should simply be taken at the recommended daily requirements listed previously(see Side Effects and Warnings).

Some evidence suggests that 30 mg of zinc daily may be helpful for acne. This is a safe dose for most people. However, in most studies of zinc for acne, a much higher dose was used: 90 mg daily or more. Doses this high should only be used under physician supervision.

For best absorption, zinc supplements should not be taken at the same time as high-fiber foods.20 However, many high-fiber foods provide zinc in themselves.

Zinc gluconate may be slightly better absorbed than zinc oxide.21 When taking zinc long-term it is advisable to take 1 mg to 3 mg of copper daily as well, because zinc supplements can cause copper deficiency. Zinc may also interfere with magnesium23 and iron24 absorption.

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