Monday, July 30, 2007

Zinc – A Cure for the Common Cold?

In the US there are about a billion cases on the common cold each year. The average adult suffers from a cold 2-4 times per year and for children this can be as often as eight times a year. Recently there has been a great deal of both research and enthusiasm over zinc gluconate being able to shorten the duration of the common cold. The theory is that zinc prevents the replication of the cold virus as well as prevents the virus from entering into cells.

Zinc is an essential mineral found in almost all cells. Zinc supports a healthy immune system, promotes the healing of wounds, and helps to maintain our sense of taste and smell. It is needed for DNA synthesis and supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.

Since zinc is so important for all these other body functions what are some sources other than zinc lozenges. There are a variety of sources of zinc in our everyday diets. Foods such as meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. Other sources of zinc include beans, nuts, some seafood, whole grains, dairy products and some fortified breakfast cereals. Oysters happen to contain more zinc per serving than any other food.

A deficiency in zinc is not very common. Vegetarians tend to need as much as 50% more zinc than non-vegetarians because of the lower absorption of zinc from plant foods. Signs of a zinc deficiency can be hair loss, diarrhea, eye and skin lesions, and loss of appetite and weight.

How does zinc effect our immune system? A severe zinc deficiency can decrease the effectiveness of our immune system. It is required for the development and activation of T-lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that helps our body fight infection.

Although there is currently a great deal of publicity for zinc and its ability to battle the common cold the studies remain inconclusive. Most studies are being done to see if zinc lozenges and/or supplements can decrease the severity or duration of the common cold. The most important thing to remember is that as helpful as it may be, zinc can be equally as harmful if taken in large quantities. Zinc is an essential nutrient, but it may also be toxic in high dosages. Be sure not to take zinc lozenges or supplements long term and not more than the recommended number on the box.

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