SECTION: No. 10, Vol. 12; Pg. 78; ISSN: 1054-4836
LENGTH: 819 words
HEADLINE: Zinc for yourself: miracle treatment
... or hype? Here's the truth about zinc and colds; Brief Article
BYLINE: Baker, Russ
THEY WERE ALMOST as hard to find as Sasquatch.
Spurred by a study that said zinc could significantly reduce the length and
severity of colds, Americans flocked to drugstores and health-food stores last
winter in search of Cold-Eeze lozenges, the zinc product purported to have the
right stuff for wiping away the sniffles. Demand was so great, stores couldn't
keep their shelves stocked.
A year later, zincmania is hotter than ever, with everyone from huge
pharmaceutical conglomerates to obscure Internet vendors putting their own zinc
cold remedies on the market. But will zinc really unclog your stuffy nose?
Here's the answer:
Zinc is a mineral your body needs for (among other essential duties) fighting
disease. The notion that zinc might be good for a cold took root in the 1980s
after Texan George Eby, whose three-year-old daughter was undergoing
chemotherapy for leukemia, noticed that the girl's cold disappeared after she
fell asleep with a zinc gluconate tablet in her mouth. Though not medically
trained, Eby began researching the phenomenon and enlisted some scientists to
help. In 1984 they published a study that showed this modified form of the
mineral could reduce a cold's length by nearly seven days.
Eby's work inspired more re search by other parties, but inconsistent
results--as well as zinc gluconate's horrible taste--hindered development for
years. In the summer of 1996, however, a breakthrough was reported. In a study
published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic
found that those who took zinc gluconate lozenges with glycine suffered colds
that were less severe and several days shorter than those who took placebos.
What's more, the glycine plus some citrus flavoring in the lozenges made their
Within months the product containing the Cleveland Clinic-tested formulation,
Cold-Eeze, began flying off store shelves. During the first half of 1997, the
Quigley Corporation, manufacturers of Cold-Eeze, sold $ 26.3 million worth of
Before you go rushing out to buy zinc for your own cold, however, know two
things. First, some leading cold researchers remain skeptical of the Cleveland
Clinic study's focus on symptom relief rasher then on blood levels of the cold
virus. The study's authors, and other doctors, defend the work, but admit
further study is needed. "No one study answers all the questions,"
says Dominick Iacuzio, Ph.D., director of the influenza and related viral
respiratory diseases program at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases. Second, in the wake of Cold-Eeze's success, there is now an array of
zinc cold products on the market, including one formula for zinc acetate
developed by Eby that he believes may work as effectively as--or even better
than--zinc gluconate. Though his Web site boldly touts it as "the world's
only patented cure for common colds," he acknowledges that results of
clinical trials using his formula, while promising, have yet to be assessed.
Eby's formula is being used in Cold-Free from Weider Nutrition International and
Fast Dry from F & F Foods. (Halls Zinc Defense, new this cold season from
Warner-Lambert, also contains zinc acetate.)
The bottom line.
It's possible that any, some or none of the zinc cold formulations out there are
effective, but until more studies are completed, the Cleveland Clinic-tested
formula, zinc gluconate with glycine (marketed as ColdEeze), is the only one
that has passed a clinical trial. Still, even if it does work, it's important to
remember that zinc doesn't pummel all symptoms. Although subjects noted its
ability to chase off coughs, headaches, sore throats, hoarse voices, nasal
congestion and runny noses, it did not stand up against fever, achy muscles,
scratchy throats and sneezing.
Even so, independent observers say zinc might be worth a try. "As long as
people take it in low doses that do not cause other side effects, then I guess
it's not bad," says Iacuzio. He and other doctors urge the following
Follow the directions precisely. Zinc lozenges should be taken once every three
to four hours, up to six lozenges per day, from the first sign of a cold until
symptoms disappear. You must let the lozenges dissolve in your mouth--otherwise
Don't overdo it Too much zinc taken over long periods can reduce the amount of
essential copper in your body, ultimately weakening your immune system. Don't
take the lozenges for more than a week.
Eat before you ingest The lozenges can upset your stomach, so it's best to
consume them after a meal.
Watch your vitamin C intake. Don't consume citrus fruit or juices for 30 minutes
before or after sucking on a zinc lozenge, since some cold experts believe
vitamin C and related compounds may interfere with zinc's effectiveness.