When the cold weather hits, you know that you are going to get at least one cold or sore throat! It seems that avoiding that cold or flu is almost impossible during the winter months. Even if there is nothing that you can do to completely avoid getting sick this season, you can take measures to reduce your likelihood, or shorten your illness if it strikes. Zinc is an essential mineral that has been receiving rave reviews for reducing the duration of the common cold in adults.

Zinc is made up of over 300 enzymes which are responsible for many different functions in the body including wound repair, maintaining fertility, proper growth in children, synthesizing protein, helping cells reproduce, preserving proper vision, boosting immunity levels, and protecting against free radicals among other things.

In studies, zinc lozenges were shown to reduce the duration of the common cold in adults. 13 to 25mg of zinc was given in the form of zinc gluconate, zinc gluconate-glycine or zinc acetate. If zinc was used at the first sign of a cold, the duration of the illness was significantly reduced. It is important to note however, that there was no effect shown in children.

Zinc has also been used in developing countries to improve growth and accelerate weight gain in malnourished children. The use of zinc has reduced the rates of diarrhea and pneumonia as well which are two of the biggest killers in underdeveloped countries. Even in developed countries, low income women and pregnant teenagers should supplement with zinc to receive similar benefits.

Zinc is found naturally in oysters, meat, eggs, seafood, black eyed peas, tofu and wheat germ. Zinc supplementation is very common, and you should take a multivitamin with zinc in it as the average diet does not have enough zinc. Vegetarians in particular should supplement with a small regular dose.

Studies have shown that people who eat a large amount of unleavened bread such as pita, matzos and certain crackers may be deficient in zinc as well. If this is the case, these people could benefit from doctor supervised supplementation.

If you decide to supplement with zinc you should only do so for a short period of time or under a doctor’s supervision. If you are taking zinc lozenges to help with an illness, you should only use the lozenges for a few days. Long term uses of zinc may actually harm the immune system and cause digestive upsets.

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