Recent Blog Articles
Pouring from an empty cup? Three ways to refill emotionally
Give praise to the elbow: A bending, twisting marvel
Sneezy and dopey? Seasonal allergies and your brain
The FDA relaxes restrictions on blood donation
Apps to accelerometers: Can technology improve mental health in older adults?
Swimming and skin: What to know if a child has eczema
A muscle-building obsession in boys: What to know and do
Natural disasters strike everywhere: Ways to help protect your health
Dementia: Coping with common, sometimes distressing behaviors
Screening tests may save lives — so when is it time to stop?
Diseases & Conditions
Zinc gets a lukewarm response for fighting colds
- By Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch
In the journals
Many people use over-the-counter zinc products to prevent or treat their colds. But can this mineral really help cure the common cold? A recent analysis published in November 2021 in BMJ Open found the evidence mixed.
Researchers pooled data from 28 randomized controlled trials that explored whether zinc lozenges, gels, capsules, or sprays could relieve cold symptoms or speed up treatment. One study showed that zinc shortened the duration of symptoms by an average of two days compared with a placebo.
In another, zinc lowered the severity of symptoms by a cold’s third day, around the peak of illness. However, many studies found zinc had only a modest effect or none at all, especially with easing daily symptoms.
While some people may benefit from taking zinc, it’s not clear who those individuals are from this research. One upside: there appears to be no significant harm from taking zinc in safe amounts at the onset of cold symptoms. Until more is known, it’s best to take a chicken soup approach to zinc: it might help, but then again, it might not.
Image: vitapix/Getty Images
About the Author
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
You might also be interested in…
Making Sense of Vitamins and Minerals
About half of all Americans routinely take dietary supplements. The most common ones are multivitamin and multimineral supplements. Making Sense of Vitamins and Minerals: Choosing the foods and nutrients you need to stay healthy explains the evidence behind the benefits and safety profiles of various vitamins and minerals. It also includes the recommended minimum and maximum amounts you should consume, as well as good food sources of each.
Free Healthbeat Signup
Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!