Zinc supplements help your immune defense fight colds faster. This was seen in a Finnish meta-analysis where the majority of cold-ridden subjects who took supplements had recovered from their colds after five days, as opposed to those who did not take extra zinc. It is important to choose high-quality zinc supplements, which the body is able to absorb. Moreover, it is vital that the dose is sufficiently high during those days where the immune system actively fights the cold. High-dosed zinc supplementation is not encouraged for therapeutic use in other cases.
Zinc is involved in over 300 different enzyme processes that are important for such things as our immune organs and white blood cells. In fact, the concentration of zinc in white blood cells is around 25 times greater than the amount contained in red blood cells. Zinc levels in the blood often drop in connection with infections because the white blood cells absorb and utilize quite a lot of zinc to fight virus and bacteria. It was because of this mechanism that scientists from the University of Helsinki decided to take a closer look at zinc supplements and their effect on cold patients.
Zinc sources and the importance of high-dosed supplements for brief periods
Zinc is mainly found in meat, shellfish, dairy products, nuts, kernels, and beans. Animal sources have the highest absorption in the body. An average European diet provides approximately 10 mg of zinc daily, but the participants in the three studies in the Finnish meta-analysis took 80-92 mg of zinc daily. This dosage is far greater than the reference intake (RI) for zinc, but the scientists referred to other controlled studies where even higher doses (100-150 mg per day) have been given to patients for months at a time and only minor side effects have been observed. It is also worth noting that 150 mg of zinc daily is standard therapy for patients with Wilson’s syndrome, a hereditary condition where people have elevated copper levels in the body.
The Finnish researchers did not suspect that the study participants would experience serious or long-term side effects from taking 80-92 mg of zinc daily for a period of one to two weeks, starting from the moment they felt a cold coming on. Quite as expected, none of these side effects occurred.
Did you know that sugar, birth control pills, inorganic iron supplements, ageing processes, and a diet with a very high fiber content may impair the body’s zinc absorption?
The study results
According to the Finnish meta-analysis of the three randomized, controlled studies, 70% of the cold-ridden patients who received zinc supplements had recovered after five days. In the placebo group, only 27% had recovered after the same number of days. The researchers used tablets with organic zinc acetate, which the body can easily absorb and utilize.
Lead investigator Dr. Harri Hemilä from the University of Helsinki now suggests taking a closer look at how zinc supplements can be administered in the case of colds. He says that those who are about to come down with a cold can try experimenting with zinc. The risk of any side effects is minimal, provided the dosage used to prevent or treat a cold stays below 100 mg daily and only for a limited period.
Choose organic zinc supplements that the body can absorb and utilize
Although zinc supplements are able to help the immune defense fight a cold, researchers argue that many zinc preparations on the market contain far too little zinc. Moreover, they often contain inorganic zinc sources like zinc sulfate or zinc oxide, which the body cannot absorb that easily. It is advisable to study the label and make sure that the product contains zinc gluconate or some other organic zinc compound, which the body is able to absorb and utilize.
Zinc deficiencies are widespread and are important to prevent
An estimated 25% of the world’s population is zinc-deficient in minor, moderate, or severe degree. Severe zinc deficiency is rare in our part of the world, but minor and moderate deficiencies are rather common. For instance, a minor zinc deficiency may easily occur if a person get too little zinc (from dietary sources or supplements) for a brief period of time.
It is therefore important to have sufficiently high zinc stores in the body when attempting to prevent a cold. That way, the immune system has what it needs and is able to combat the virus before it gains foothold and causes the cold to break out.
|Measurements of plasma zinc levels are inexpensive and have become increasing popular|
Our need for zinc is especially increased by:
- Developing infections
- Overconsumption of sugar, alcohol, stimulants, and junk-food
- Birth control pills and hormonal imbalances
- Impaired fertility and frequent ejaculation
- Pregnancy and lactation
- Vegetarian food (as zinc from plant sources is not absorbed well)
- Skin, hair, and nail disorders
- Poor wound healing following surgery
- Ageing processes because of poor zinc absorption
During acute virus infections, we even need vitamin D plus extra vitamin C and selenium
In very rare cases, zinc supplements may cause side effects such as:
- Abdominal pain
Prolonged use of high-dosage zinc supplements may inhibit the body’s absorption of iron and copper
University of Helsinki. Zink acetate lozenges may increase the recovery rate from the common cold by three-fold. ScienceDaily May 11, 2017
Pernille Lund. Styrk immunforsvaret. Hovedland 2013
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