Rethinking Zinc

A common treatment may make colds go away faster. But is the cure worse than the illness for some?

These days, many people looking for relief from a cold reach for a remedy at the end of the alphabet: Zinc. Given that colds are so common in adults, and even more so in children, experts are curious whether zinc can help.

Researchers reviewed the findings of 17 earlier studies that included more than 2,000 people. They took zinc or a placebo when they had a cold.

Adults who took zinc saw their cold symptoms go away about two and a half days earlier. But the remedy did not offer this benefit for children. In addition, people who took zinc were more likely to have nausea and a bad taste in their mouths.

These findings raise important questions about the usefulness of using zinc for treating colds, according to the researchers. They point out that some side effects may outweigh the benefits.

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