Is keeping colds at bay your number one health priority this winter?
If so, finding a safe and natural cold-fighting supplement is probably top of your wellness to-do list. You’ve probably heard about zinc for colds already, but how does it work?
Here, we discuss the theory behind zinc lozenges and whether taking a zinc supplement could help your body cope better with the common cold.
Why is zinc important and how can I get enough?Zinc is responsible for aiding a range of essential bodily functions. This includes growth, skin health and wound healing. But it’s also known for supporting a strong immune system.1
Finding a way to ensure an adequate intake of this essential micronutrient is important. And not just when you’re in the midst of fighting off a cold.
There are two main sources of zinc – food and supplements.
1. Zinc in your dietIn developed countries, the majority of zinc consumption is through a healthy diet. Eating a balanced diet is usually enough to meet the recommended daily intake – 9.5mg a day for men aged 19 to 64 years and 7mg a day for women.2 Foods that contain zinc:3
- Dairy foods including cheese
- Cereal product
2. Zinc supplementsIf you still need to boost your zinc levels – for example, to tackle cold symptoms – supplements such as zinc throat lozenges could help. It’s important to not take too much zinc as this can lead to anaemia and weakening of the bones. The NHS advises not to take more than 25mg of zinc supplements a day, unless advised by a doctor.4
3 types of zinc supplements
- Zinc helps support the immune system.
- A healthy balanced diet is usually enough to ensure an adequate daily intake.
- Zinc supplements come in a variety of forms.
What is the difference between zinc and zinc lozenges?
Zinc is an essential nutrient. Because your body can’t produce or store it, you need to get it through food or nutritional supplements. Zinc lozenges are a popular form of zinc supplement.Zinc lozenges are sucked and held in the mouth. It’s here that zinc can get to work at fighting the common cold virus (rhinovirus) where it’s typically found – in the mouth and throat.5
What are the best zinc lozenges?
When searching for zinc for colds, you’ll notice it’s often combined with vitamin C for extra cold-fighting strength. Vitamin C and zinc lozenges can be especially effective at helping the body fight colds.
In addition, different zinc compositions are also available. Zinc gluconate and zinc acetate are the two most common forms of zinc for colds. You’ll probably spot zinc gluconate lozenges and zinc acetate lozenges when looking for cold-fighting supplements.
Where can I buy zinc lozenges?
As well as health and wellness retailers, like Holland & Barrett, zinc lozenges are also widely available in supermarkets and chemists.
- Zinc lozenges are a popular form of zinc supplement.
- In supplements, zinc is often combined with vitamin C for extra cold-fighting strength.
- Zinc gluconate and zinc acetate are common forms of zinc for colds.
Do zinc lozenges really work?Some studies show that taking zinc can help reduce the duration of a cold by up to three days.6 Evidence suggests that the timing of taking zinc could be a factor in its success. Best results usually occur after taking the supplement at the onset, or within the first 24 hours of cold symptoms.7 These results are great news for anyone looking for an effective cold remedy, but not all studies have reported the same success. Some studies show no positive effect on cold symptoms or duration.8,9
Overall, the jury’s still out on effectiveness. But provided safe limits are adhered to, there’s no suggestion that zinc supplements could make symptoms worse.It’s worth noting that zinc supplements can cause side effects, particularly with continued use. For example, some people report nausea and a bad taste in the mouth. And whilst the side effects aren’t usually severe, you should chat to your GP if you have concerns.10
- Some studies show that zinc lozenges could be effective in reducing the symptoms and duration of the common cold.
- Other studies show that inc supplements have no effect on cold symptoms.
Four more ways to fight a cold naturally
Give your body the best chance of fighting a cold with a multi-factor approach:
A healthy, balanced diet, rich in natural vitamin C and zinc is the best way to help defend your body against colds. These nutrients will give your body the power it needs to fight the common cold virus.
- Get your zzzz’s
Plenty of sleep and rest will help your body fight infection and boost recovery.
- Drink up
Drinking ample fluids can help thin nasty cold mucous. This can help you feel less bunged up.
- Act fast
Cold-fighting supplements, including vitamin C and zinc lozenges, are best taken in the early days of a cold. So, dose up as soon as you feel the familiar tingle in your nose, or itch in your throat.Read more: 10 remedies for coughs and colds Shop Vitamins & Supplements
Last updated: 11 February 2021
Author: Donia Hilal, Nutritionist
Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018. Donia has 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one to one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.Donia has a special interest in; weight management, plant-based nutrition, pregnancy nutrition, special diets and disease risk reduction. Donia's LinkedIn profile