The go-to when you’ve got a cold is usually paracetamol, a duvet and a decent box set. But there may be a way to beat the common cold that’s more effective than letting it run its course.
According to new research, taking high-dose zinc lozenges may help you to recover three times faster than if you don’t take the supplement.
The study found that seven out of 10 people who took the lozenges recovered within five days.
In comparison, fewer than three in 10 people with a cold who did not take the lozenges recovered in this time.
To test the effectiveness of zinc in treating the common cold, researchers from the University of Helsinki analysed data from three trials involving people with symptoms.
The dose of zinc in the three studies was between 80 to 92mg per day, which is substantially higher than the NHS’ recommended zinc intake per day (9.5mg for men and 7mg for women).
The amount of zinc in the study’s lozenges was also much higher than the amount included in most zinc supplements, suggesting the results may be hard to replicate with a quick trip to your local pharmacy.
The NHS currently advises that there is “some evidence” that taking zinc (in lozenges, tablets or syrup) “may reduce how long a cold lasts”.
“Long-term use of zinc isn’t recommended as it could cause side effects such as nausea and a bad taste in the mouth. More research is required to find out the recommended dose,” it says.
However, the researchers emphasised that none of the patients involved in the trial showed any serious adverse effects of zinc.
On the fifth day of the trial, 70% of the zinc lozenge patients had recovered compared with 27% of the placebo patients.
The lozenges were found to help patients regardless of age, sex, race, allergy, smoking, or the severity of their cold.
Lead author Dr Harri Hemilä, from the University of Helsinki, said further investigation is needed to test the optimal formulation of zinc lozenges and the best frequency of their administration.
He instructed common cold patients to test individually whether zinc lozenges are helpful for them, saying: “Given the strong evidence of efficacy and the low risk of adverse effects, common cold patients may already be encouraged to try zinc acetate lozenges not exceeding 100mg of elemental zinc per day for treating their colds.”