Why Zinc? We Have Convincing Evidence

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By Alan Inglis, MD

When you start reading the research on zinc and the immune system, a clear picture quickly emerges. Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system.

More important, if you are low in zinc you could have trouble fighting off disease causing viruses and bacteria. The very same viruses and bacteria that cause colds and the flu.

Even better, taking extra zinc in supplement form offers the promise of both reducing the duration and the severity of symptoms of a common cold.  

There are several reasons why we may need more zinc than we get from our food. To start, as we get older, our bodies lose their ability to absorb zinc from food. This is because as we age, our bodies make less stomach acid. And you and I both need stomach acid to absorb zinc into our bodies. This is a scientific fact.

Also, people these days are eating fewer foods that contain zinc, and more foods that interfere with your body’s ability to absorb zinc.  Although we are often told we can get all the nutrients we need from food, this is not always true for zinc.

Zinc is found in abundance in an easily absorbed form in animal foods such as beef, pork and chicken. And especially oysters!  At the same time, staple foods such as various beans, corn and rice contain phytates, compounds that which interfere with zinc absorption.

These days people eat fewer animal foods and lots more grains, especially corn -- a surefire recipe for not getting enough zinc into our bodies. By the way, zinc is always better absorbed when taken with a meal that contains plenty of protein.

There’s more. Many of us end up on medications that increase zinc loss in the urine.  These include popular blood pressure drugs such as ACE Inhibitors (lisinopril, captopril etc.) and thiazide diuretics (Hydrocaholorothiazide etc.).

It looks like even a mild degree of zinc insufficiency may be a problem when it comes to catching a cold or coming down with the flu. And as you can see, there are plenty of reasons why many folks may not be getting enough zinc from their diets.  

Supplemental zinc has been shown to shorten the duration of the common cold, when taken within 24 hours of the first signs and symptoms. Backing this claim we have robust, authoritative research that supports the ability of zinc to shorten the duration of the common cold. The prestigious Cochrane Collaborative, a rigorous evidence-based medicine organization points to its usefulness:

  “This Cochrane review provides convincing evidence from 13 randomized placebo-controlled trials that taking zinc soon after the onset of symptoms  of the common cold significantly reduces both the duration and severity of symptoms. Zinc supplements are widely available over the counter,  so you can recommend that patients take zinc the next time they  develop a cold.”

 In Dr Schnuffie’s Cold + Flu Remedy, we use Zinc Citrate, a more easily absorbed form than the cheap, commonly used Zinc Gluconate.

Sarah W