16/02/2011 08:05 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Zinc Tablets Make Cold Symptoms Milder

The worst of the winter cold season is hopefully coming to an end, but don't be lulled into a false sense of security as we haven't seen the back of those winter bugs just yet. And that's why the news today from scientists in India could be most welcome.

woman-in-bed-sneezing-common-cold Taking zinc supplements might make a cold less miserable. Photo: Getty

Taking zinc tablets, say experts from the Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, could help shorten the duration of a cold as well as make the symptoms less miserable. It's not a cure, but it could provide some much-needed relief when you're in the full throes of a nasty one.

Published as a Cochrane Systematic Review, the study suggests taking zinc in various forms - syrup, lozenges or tablets - may reduce the severity and length of a cold if you take it within a day of your symptoms starting. After reviewing data from 15 different clinical trials, the researchers suggest that more people who had taken zinc supplements were free from symptoms after seven days than those who had taken a placebo (dummy tablets).

There has been a big debate over the years about the effectiveness of zinc in the treatment of colds, with many studies suggesting it does help reduce the symptoms and others claiming it has no effect at all. This latest review, however, has firmly come out in favour of taking zinc - which could, say the researchers, also help reduce the 40% of time taken off work owing to the common cold.

Do you take any natural supplements when you have a cold? Do they work?

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