Zinc may shorten colds

Some people swear by zinc as a way to get over a nasty cold faster than usual — and researchers say that belief may be nothing to sneeze at. An analysis of 17 patient trials comparing oral zinc preparations to placebo found that sucking on the lozenges appeared to shorten the duration of the common cold by about two days.

TORONTO — Some people swear by zinc as a way to get over a nasty cold faster than usual — and researchers say that belief may be nothing to sneeze at.

An analysis of 17 patient trials comparing oral zinc preparations to placebo found that sucking on the lozenges appeared to shorten the duration of the common cold by about two days.

But lead author Dr. Michelle Science, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, said the review of the trials involving more than 2,100 patients did not show that using zinc alleviated the severity of symptoms.

“Overall, what we found was that oral zinc taken at the start of a cold, or at the onset of a cold, reduced the average amount of time that a person will have symptoms, such as runny nose or congestion,” Science said Monday.

“But the reduction was relatively minor, so less than two days on average was what we found. If the average cold lasts seven to 10 days, then take off perhaps on average a day and a half of symptoms.”