The Truth About the Use of VitaminC and Zinc to Prevent the Common Cold

Can Vitamin C really help prevent you from getting sick?  And can the use of Zinc tablets really reduce the duration of a cold?  These are two very common vitamins that are taken very often this time of the year.  The reason is simple, people get bombarded with advertisements, jingles, and commercials that profess how much these two vitamins can help in terms of cold prevention and also how they cut back on the duration that someone will be sick.  Now, I’m not saying that I don’t believe any of it, but I often wonder whether or not the claims are true.  And because of my loyalty to my customers, I’ve decided to share a bit of research to shed some light on the subject.

I know many people aren’t going to be fooled by linked through advertising studies that are done simply to back up the products that they sell.  That’s why, here at HCBL, I like to find out the real facts behind the myths.  And what I found was shocking, even to me!  1”The latest report — a 2006 Japanese study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition — showed the risk of contracting three or more colds in the five-year period was decreased by 66% by the daily intake of the 500-mg vitamin C supplement. This study deserves special mention because it was much longer (five years) than the trials reported in previous studies and covered many cold seasons in which subjects were probably exposed repeatedly to many cold viruses.”

So it would seem as is if previous studies done on the subject do not hold much water in terms of their statistical accuracy, due to the short terms of the studies or the small sample sizes used.  The Mayo Clinic had this to say about similar studies, 2” Overall, no significant reduction in the risk of developing colds has been observed. In people who developed colds while taking vitamin C, no difference in severity of symptoms has been seen overall, although a very small significant reduction in the duration of colds has been reported.”

Bottom line?  There’s quite a bit of truth that points to Vitamin C as being very beneficial in terms of preventing colds and, in some cases, shortening the duration.  But the effects on the duration are fairly slim, and most people recommend a different supplement for that reason.  After all, though a vitamin can play a role in aiding multiple ailments, most vitamins are taken as a means to focus on one arena.

This is where we take a look at the effects that Zinc has on the body’s ability to rid you of a cold.  The following data was taken during a study at the Cleveland Clinic among 100 patients in a trial on zinc and its relation to colds:

Background: The common cold is one of the most frequent human illnesses and is responsible for substantial morbidity and economic loss. No consistently effective therapy for the common cold has been well documented, but evidence suggests that several possible mechanisms may make zinc an effective treatment.

Objective: To test the efficacy of zinc gluconate lozenges in reducing the duration of symptoms caused by the common cold.

Design: Randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study.

Setting: Outpatient department of a large tertiary care center.

Patients: 100 employees of the Cleveland Clinic who developed symptoms of the common cold within 24 hours before enrollment.

Intervention: Patients in the zinc group (n = 50) received lozenges (one lozenge every 2 hours while awake) containing 13.3 mg of zinc from zinc gluconate as long as they had cold symptoms. Patients in the placebo group (n = 50) received similarly administered lozenges that contained 5% calcium lactate pentahydrate instead of zinc gluconate.

Main Outcome Measures: Subjective daily symptom scores for cough, headache, hoarseness, muscle ache, nasal drainage, nasal congestion, scratchy throat, sore throat, sneezing, and fever (assessed by oral temperature).

Conclusion: Zinc gluconate in the form and dosage studied significantly reduced the duration of symptoms of the common cold. The mechanism of action of this substance in treating the common cold remains unknown. Individual patients must decide whether the possible beneficial effects of zinc gluconate on cold symptoms outweigh the possible adverse effects.

Sherif B. Mossad, MD; Michael L. Macknin, MD; Sharon V. Mendendorp, MPH; and Pamela Mason, BSN, MBA (Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians)

In another study done by Sabrina Sobel, PhD, of Hofstra University, again a measurement was taken to see what effects zinc lozenges would have on cold symptoms, and also what levels of effectiveness are present.  In an interview with she says, 4″In our studies, the best benefit came when the lozenges were taken within 24 hours of the first sign of symptoms, cutting colds by almost in half,” she tells WebMD. “If you take zinc lozenges within 48 hours, there was some relief, but not as dramatic — it cut cold duration by only about one-third.”  When asked why it is she feels that zinc has such a great impact when it comes to blocking these symptoms she added, “[it’s] sort of like clogging a keyhole with a lot of pieces of sand. Every zinc ion acts like a piece of sand.”

Now, I would like to add that while Vitamin C and Zinc are great vitamins to be taken in order to help prevent colds, and lower the time spent suffering their effects, I would also point out that taking Vitamin C and Zinc on a daily basis will not make you immune to contracting the cold virus.  So get your supply of Vitamin C and Zinc early this season, and make sure that you take the proper doses to help you keep your cold under control!





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