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Zinc is an essential mineral and can be found in high amounts in oysters, crabs and other meat products. Zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral in the body, needed for approximately 100 enzymatic reactions. The human body cannot produce zinc on its own, so we need to obtain it through diet. This mineral impacts wound healing, DNA synthesis, immune function, protein absorption and cell division. Zinc deficiency can cause impaired sense of taste and smell, impotence in men, diarrhea, poor night vision, and weight loss.
In 2008, fifty volunteers were recruited within 24 hours of developing symptoms of the common cold. They were randomly assigned to a placebo group or a treatment group receiving zinc. This double-blind study gave the zinc group 13.3mg of zinc every 2-3 hours during the waking day. Compared with the placebo group, the zinc group had a shorter mean overall duration of cold (4.0 vs. 7.1 days), shorter duration of cough (2.1 vs. 5.0 days), and shorter duration of nasal discharge (3.0 vs. 4.5 days). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory markers were also improved in the zinc group. While these results are promising, it should be noted that subjects received a high amount of zinc in response to acute cold symptoms that should not be taken on a daily basis.
In 2007, a 12 month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted on elderly patients to determine the effect of zinc on the immune system. After zinc supplementation, the incidence of infections among the treatment group was significantly lower, plasma zinc was significantly higher, and oxidative stress markers were significantly lower in comparison to the placebo group.
- Duration and severity of symptoms and levels of plasma interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor, and adhesion molecules in patients with common cold treated with zinc acetate.The Journal of Infectious Diseases,2008
- Zinc supplementation decreases incidence of infections in the elderly: effect of zinc on generation of cytokines and oxidative stress.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,2007