People who begin using zinc lozenges, tablets or syrup at the first signs of a common cold are more likely to get well faster, researchers reported Tuesday. But the new findings probably won’t be the last word on the issue, which has been the subject of debate since the idea was first proposed in 1984.
Since that time, 18 studies have examined zinc in preventing or treating colds. Some found zinc supplements were modestly helpful, others failed to turn up any benefits.
One analysis of 14 studies, published in 2007, concluded that many of the studies were too flawed to draw any conclusions.
In the latest report, published by the Cochrane Library, an international network of experts who conduct systematic reviews of research, scientists in India evaluated 15 studies, including four published since 2000.
Two of the studies evaluated focused on zinc’s effectiveness in preventing colds and the rest on its ability to shorten the duration of colds. The 15 studies involved 1,360 participants ranging in age from 1 to 65 with good overall health.
Pooling the data, researchers found that people who took zinc within 24 hours of the start of symptoms were over their colds about one day sooner than people who took placebos. The analysis also found that the severity of cold symptoms was somewhat milder among people who took zin