Zinc might be surprise contender in fight against winter ills
Thursday, 30 January 1997
Zinc lozenges, once labeled alternative medicine, are now all the rage in America’s war on colds.
Ever since the July 1996 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine reported zinc lozenges were effective in reducing the average length of a cold by three days, they’ve been selling out across the nation.
Pharmacies have been trying to keep up with the demand.
“They’re selling like mad,” said one employee of D&H Prescription Drug Store in Columbia.
Jennifer Wills, herb buyer at Clovers Natural Food, said most of the companies that supply stores with the zinc lozenges are out of stock right now because of the publicity.
Those customers lucky enough to have found them seem satisfied.
“Most people do seem to think they work,” said Blaine Alberty, pharmacist and co-owner of D&H.
Why the lozenges work is not entirely clear.
One theory is that zinc boosts the immune system.
“Zinc is heavily involved in the immune system response,” pharmacist Dennis Matles said.
Some experts say that when a body is stricken with a cold virus, its zinc supply becomes depleted. Lozenges are a way to bolster that supply. Another possible explanation is that zinc blocks viral replication.
The drawbacks of zinc lozenges? They taste bad, and the directions say to take up to six per day.
But as Wills, who uses them herself, noted, “People are willing to do just about anything to get rid of their cold.”
Sharyn Parks, a sophomore at the M.U., has been sick with a cold for three weeks. She has heard of zinc lozenges, and she said she will probably try them if she doesn’t get better soon.
“I heard they work,” she said. “I guess it can’t hurt.”
Related link: Text of the study