Category Archives: zinc

Movember: The Male Menopause

The Movember movement was established to inspire men to be more aware of their health needs, and to seek medical help if needed. Men are less likely to visit a doctor than women. They tend to put off making GP appointments which can mean that symptoms are more advanced and harder to treat. On the internet, television and in popular magazines, there seems to be less information about men’s health than women’s health.

A good example of this is the menopause. While there is a good awareness of the female menopause and its impact on women’s health, there is a lack of awareness of the male menopause, medically known as the andropause. The very notion of ‘male menopause’ is contentious and three quarters of British men have not even heard of it. Despite this, the symptoms of low testosterone are very real.

Andropause is marked by a decrease in testosterone levels that can affect men in middle age, causing symptoms such as low energy levels, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, depression, irritability, increased body fat and loss of muscle mass. On average, from the age of 39, testosterone levels in men decrease by over 1% each year, while competing hormones such as oestradiol and prolactin begin to rise (1).

While andropause is often attributed to the inevitable ageing process, new studies suggest that dietary and lifestyle choices have a much bigger impact (2). Obesity and smoking have significant negative effects on testosterone levels. Stress levels, alcohol consumption, lack of sleep and exercise, nutritional deficiencies and environmental estrogens from plastics are all likely to affect men’s hormonal balance.

There are three key nutrients have been found to increase testosterone levels in clinical studies. The first of these is Vitamin D. Supplementing with this particular vitamin has been found to raise testosterone levels (3). The male reproductive tract is known to have Vitamin D receptors, suggesting that this is a key nutrient in male sexual health.

Magnesium supplementation has also been found to increase testosterone levels in both active and sedentary men after four weeks of supplementation (4). Magnesium is a co-factor in more than 300 biological processes in the body, and so ensuring sufficient intake is critical for anybody interested in achieving optimal health. Magnesium is needed for healthy metabolic pathways, which include hormone production. It also stops testosterone from binding to ‘sex hormone binding globulin’, meaning that it is more active in the body.

Finally, the mineral zinc has profound effects on hormonal health. Even marginal zinc deficiency is known to cause a drop in testosterone levels (4). Zinc is required for the production of testosterone from androstenedione. A deficiency in zinc leads to the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. It also increases the number estrogen receptors and decreases testosterone receptors. The best dietary sources are shellfish, beef and other unprocessed red meats.

Any man experiencing andropause symptoms should visit their GP for a routine check up. Hormone testing can confirm levels of circulating testosterone. The ‘free androgen index’, a measure of active testosterone levels, is a particularly important measure. As a general guideline, the normal range is between 0.7 and 1.0.


  1. Feldman HA, Longcope C, Derby CA, et al. Age trends in the level of serum testosterone and other hormones in middle-aged men: longitudinal results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87:589-598.
  2. Endocrine Society. “Declining testosterone levels in men not part of normal aging.” ScienceDaily. (accessed November 10, 2014).
  3. Pilz S et al (2011) Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res Mar;43(3):223-5.
  4. Cinar V et al (2011) Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. Apr;140(1):18-23.
  5. Prasad AS et al (1996) Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition 12(5):344-8.

Natural Immune Support for Children

Children frequently pick up and pass on common bacterial and viral infections, often through interaction with others at school which can manifest into sore throats, colds, flu, sinusitis and more. Unfortunately large numbers of these children are prescribed antibiotics repeatedly. With the current concern over antibiotic resistance, it is natural to want to avoid having your child take antibiotics if possible.

There are a number of natural ways to reduce the risk of your children picking up illnesses. The very best insurance to help prevent you and your children getting ill is to support the immune system through diet, nutrients and lifestyle.

Here are 5 ways to boost children’s immunity naturally:

1. Wash hands but don’t be a germaphobe: Good hygiene at school and at home is important to help reduce the spread of germs. Washing hands is particularly easy and effective. However, extreme hygiene practices may have a negative effect on your child’s maturing immunity.

Strawberry's, melons and berries are all high in Vitamin C
Strawberries, melons and berries are all high in Vitamin C

2. Eat foods packed with immune-boosting nutrients: Serve nutrient-dense foods to help boost your children’s immunity. A few nutrients can be essential to supporting a balanced immune system. Vitamin C can be found not only in citrus fruits, but also in broccoli, kale, green beans, berries, cantaloupe, strawberries, melons and zinc, which supports immune cell function. Foods such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and seafood are all rich in zinc. Probiotic foods such as natural organic yogurt balance gut flora and are essential to a well functioning immune system.

3. Reduce refined carbohydrates and sugary foods: Refined carbohydrates like pasta, bread, biscuits and cakes and sugary foods like soda and candy can seriously tax the immune system. They feed bacterial growth and contribute to inflammation, which depletes and exhausts immune function.

4. Exercise: Research has shown that moderate exercise improves immune function for all ages. Turning off the TV, limiting the video games and getting the kids outdoors are great ways to boost children’s immunity naturally.

5. Try natural immune support nutrients and supplements: Bee Propolis is an immune boosting plant-based nutrient that is safe and effective for children. This resin is collected by bees, from tree and plant buds and has natural antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Olive leaf extract and black elderberry are also full of antimicrobial nutrients and are also safe for all ages. Bee Prepared Immune Support Daily Defence combines these ingredients and other equally beneficial nutrients which support immune health. Capsules may be swallowed or broken open and put into juices, smoothies or yogurt.

A practical, delicious and child-friendly way to include a few of these recommendations into your daily routine is with an immune boosting smoothie.

Immunity Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 1 apple, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1 orange, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup filtered water or organic apple juice
  • 1/2 cup natural yogurt
  • 2 tsp manuka honey
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seed butter *optional
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger root, peeled
  • 1 capsule Bee Prepared Daily Defence (open capsule and use the powder)

Combine all of these ingredients in a blender, serve and enjoy!

1. Image courtesy of Roger Kirby.


Iron and Zinc Intake Linked with PMS

An iron-rich diet lowers the risk of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) according to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (1).

The study is one of the first to investigate whether dietary mineral intake is linked with PMS. The diets of more than 3,000 American women were analysed, with women completing three food frequency questionnaires over a 10-year period. After 10 years, 1,057 of the women were diagnosed with PMS while 1,968 of the women were free from the condition. The researchers then compared the diets of the women with PMS with the diets of the women with no symptoms. The researchers adjusted for factors known to affect PMS such as calcium intake.

The results showed that non-heme iron intake is linked to a lowered incidence of PMS. Non-heme iron is the iron found in plant foods and supplements, rather than iron from animal foods. Senior research Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson said that the women who consumed the most non-heme iron from both foods and supplements had “a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of developing PMS than women who consumed the lowest amount of non-heme iron”. The results also showed that women with the lowest iron intake were almost twice as likely to suffer with PMS compared to women with the highest intake.

“The level of iron intake at which we saw a lower risk of PMS, roughly greater than 20 mg per day, is higher than the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron for pre menopausal women,” Bertone-Johnson says.

The researchers also suggested that iron may be related to PMS because it is involved in producing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood.

Vitamin C intake is linked with helping the absorption of iron

While iron supplements may of course be helpful to ensure adequate intake, it’s important to ensure that good dietary sources of iron are included each day. Good plant-based sources of iron include pulses such as lentils, beans and chickpeas, nuts and seeds, dried apricots and leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Iron-fortified cereals are another rich source. Adding citrus fruit or a glass of orange juice is also helpful as Vitamin C boosts iron absorption.

Another mineral was also highlighted by the study as significant in its influence on PMS. “We also saw some indication that high intake of zinc was associated with lower risk” Bertone-Johnson explains. The level of zinc linked to a lower risk of PMS was greater than 15mg each day which again is higher than the RDA.

Zinc is needed for the proper action of many hormones and it can also lower levels of hormones such as prolactin which are implicated in PMS.

Ensuring a good intake of zinc through the diet means eating zinc-rich meats such as venison, beef and turkey, while vegetarians should emphasise foods such as yoghurt, spinach, mushrooms and oats. Zinc from plant sources is less well-absorbed and so vegetarians may benefit from a zinc supplement to ensure adequate intake. It should be noted, however, that excessive levels of zinc can be detrimental to health and should only be taken under the supervision of a health practitioner.

More research is needed in this area to confirm the results of this study. In the meantime, however, ensuring an adequate intake of both iron and zinc seems a sensible measure for those who suffer with PMS.


1. Patricia O. Chocano-Bedoya, JoAnn E. Manson, Susan E. Hankinson, Susan R. Johnson, Lisa Chasan-Taber, Alayne G. Ronnenberg, Carol Bigelow, and Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson. Intake of Selected Minerals and Risk of Premenstrual Syndrome. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2013 DOI: 10.1093/aje/kws363.

2.Image courtesy of topfer.


10 Tips for Hay Fever Sufferers

10 Tips for Hay Fever Sufferers

If you missed last week’s bodykind newsletter about Hay Fever and some effective and natural ways to manage the symptoms, you may be interested in the “10 Top Tips” that bodykind’s Nutritional Therapist Nadia Mason came up with below:

Blueberries, Blackberries and Elderberries are good for Hay Fever symptoms
Fruits such as Blueberries, Blackberries and Elderberries are good for managing Hay Fever symptoms
  1. Reduce histamine levels by eating plenty of magnesium and methionine-rich foods. Good sources are sunflower seeds, nuts, oats and leafy greens.
  2. Try to eat cabbage, onions and apples regularly. These foods are good sources of quercetin, a natural antihistamine.
  3. Eat plenty of purple berries,  such as blueberries, blackberries and elderberries,  for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Try making a refreshing fruit smoothie with frozen blueberries, or add a spoonful of elderberry jam onto your morning cereal.
  4. Drink peppermint tea. Peppermint contains a substance called rosmarinic acid, a powerful antioxidant that blocks production of allergy-producing leukotrienes.
  5.  Ensure you’re getting plenty of immune-boosting nutrients. Vitamin B6 and zinc play an important role in balancing histamine levels and supporting the immune system.
  6. Increased sunlight in the summer results in higher levels of pollution in urban areas, causing the immune system to react. A good all-round antioxidant supplement can increase your resistance. Try one that includes vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc.
  7. For stubborn symptoms, the amino acid methionine, in combination with calcium, can act as an effective anti-histamine. Try taking 500mg l-methionine and 400g calcium twice daily.
  8. Food intolerances can sometimes make symptoms worse. Try limiting common culprits such as wheat and dairy products for a couple of weeks to see if symptoms begin to improve.
  9. Omega-3 oils are one of nature’s best anti-inflammatory nutrients. Include oily fish in your diet at least twice weekly, and supplement with a good quality fish oil or flaxseed oil.
  10. Anti-inflammatory bromelain, a nutrient found in pineapple, is thought to be helpful for hayfever sufferers.  Try fresh pineapple, but be sure to eat the core too, as this part is highest in bromelain. Bromelain is available in supplement form. For best results, I often recommend taking bromelain alongside quercetin.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC


Zinc – an effective treatment for depression?

A recent review indicates that zinc may be an effective addition to treatment for depression (1).

Virdian Balanced Zinc Complex
A recent review indicates that zinc may be an effective addition to treatment for depression.

Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that are involved in brain function. In fact there have been a number of human clinical studies in recent years which have indicated that zinc may be useful in the management of mood disorders. People with depression are often low in this mineral, and improvements may be seen with supplementation. Furthermore, diets low in zinc can lead to impaired cognitive function and behavioural disturbances (2).

Depression is linked with alterations in chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, in the brain. It is thought that zinc actually helps to regulate the transmission of the neurotransmitter glutamate, indicating that it may be helpful in addressing mood disorders (3).

The review found that “in studies that examined the effects of zinc supplementation as an adjunct to antidepressants drug treatment, zinc significantly lowered depressive symptom scores of depressed patients.”

Caution should be used when taking zinc supplements for long periods, as this can affect levels of other minerals such as copper. Many of the studies showed positive results using doses of just 25 mg per day for 6 weeks. Taking zinc as part of a high quality multivitamin and mineral supplement can help to strike a balance.

The researchers maintain that further well-designed research is required. It is also too early to say whether zinc is effective as a standalone treatment for depression. Zinc is an inexpensive supplement, and is considered safe when taken at low doses. For these reasons, zinc may represent a promising addition to the management of depression.

Written by Nadia Mason


1. Lai J, Moxey A, Nowak G, Vashum K, Bailey K, McEvoy M. The efficacy of zinc supplementation in depression: Systematic review of randomised controlled trials. J Affect Disord. 2011 Jul 26. [Epub ahead of print].

2. Takeda A: Movement of zinc and its functional significance in the brain. Brain Res Brain Res Rev, 2000, 34,137–148.

3. Szewczy B, et al. Antidepressant activity of zinc and magnesium in view of the current hypotheses of antidepressant action. Pharmacological Reports. 2008, 60, 588–59



Zinc may shorten common colds

As autumn and winter draw on, many of us are blighted by the common cold.  While there is still no cure for the virus, a new literature review indicates that a common supplement can reduce its duration.

Zinc may help the immune system
Studies have found that zinc and zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of the common cold by 40% (3)

The study, published in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, found that when given in higher doses, zinc and zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of the common cold by 40%.

There have been many studies on the effectiveness of zinc lozenges in treating colds, and results have not been consistent.  This new meta-analysis assessed 13 placebo-controlled trials in order to get a better picture of the effectiveness of the supplement.

Of the 13 trial studies, 5 used a total daily zinc dose of less than 75mg.  Each of these studies found no beneficial effect on cold duration.

Three trials used zinc acetate in daily doses of more than 75mg.  Each of these 3 studies found zinc to be beneficial, with an average of a 42% reduction in the duration of colds.

Five further trials used other forms of zinc in daily doses of more than 75mg.  Again, these trials showed benefit, with an average 20% decrease in the duration of colds.

While some studies recorded adverse effects such as unpleasant taste, no evidence was found that zinc lozenges might cause long term harm.  The study leader Dr Hemia concluded that “since a large proportion of trial participants have remained without adverse effects, zinc lozenges might be useful for them as a treatment option for the common cold.”

The therapeutic properties of zinc are thought to be due to this mineral’s ability to affect the immune response, as well as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  In addition, zinc may actually inhibit the common cold virus (rhinovirus) (3).

For the common cold, zinc lozenges and sublingual zinc do appear to be a better option than zinc tablets or capsules.  This is because zinc lozenges dissolve in the mouth allowing the mucus membranes in the throat (and any cold virus there) to be acted on directly by the zinc.  Swallowing a capsule or tablet would not allow the zinc to work in the same way.

The trials that Dr Hemlia reviewed were each based on small numbers of participants, indicating that more research is needed in this area.  I would also add as a caveat that zinc is known to compete with other minerals in the body.  These minerals include copper and iron.  Long term intakes of high levels of any one mineral can reduce levels of another, a process called ‘competitive inhibition’.  Nevertheless, the study indicates that short-term intakes of high amounts of zinc should pose no harm, and may provide welcome relief for those suffering with winter colds.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC


1. Harri Harri. Zinc Lozenges May Shorten the Duration of Colds: A Systematic Review. The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, 2011; 5 (1): 51 DOI: 10.2174/1874306401105010051.

2. Korant BD, et al. Inhibition by zinc of rhinovirus protein cleavage: interaction of zinc with capsid polypeptides. J Virol. 1976;18(1):298-306.

3.  Image courtesy of Ambro.



Review study finds that zinc supplements may reduce the severity and duration of the common cold

Previously I have written about zinc and vitamin C in relation to the prevention and shortening of the common cold and I would recommend you visit this post for more information.  I have also written about probiotics, elderberry, vitamin D and a healthy diet in relation to the common cold 

Colds are caused by viruses and our susceptibility to these infections is largely dictated by the efficiency of our immune system.  A healthy diet providing our bodies with optimal nutrition may help to keep our immune systems strong and protect us from infection.  The symptoms of a common cold, such as a tickly throat, headache and runny nose, tend to last from a few days to a couple of weeks.  There is mixed evidence with regards prevention and treatment of colds with complementary health methods but a new review study (1) of 15 trials has found that taking zinc supplements in syrup, lozenge or tablet form within a day of symptoms starting can reduce their severity and shorten the length of illness.  Zinc is essential for the efficient functioning of the immune system.  Every cell in our body needs zinc.  This mineral has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body which may account for these effects.

The authors of the review study (1) write in their introduction that “the common cold is one of the most widespread illnesses and is a leading cause of visits to the doctor and absenteeism from school and work”.  The review set about looking at all the available information – trials that have occurred since 1984 investigating the role of zinc in the treatment of the common cold symptoms have had mixed results, the review was looking for clarification.

The authors of the study (1) looked for well conducted, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, trials using zinc for at least five consecutive days to treat, or for at least five months to prevent the common cold.   13 therapeutic trials (with 966 participants) and two preventive trials (with 394 participants) were included in the review.  The results showed that the intake of zinc is associated with a significant reduction in the duration and severity of common cold symptoms.  There was also a significant difference between the zinc and control groups (not taking zinc) for the proportion of participants still having symptoms after seven days of treatment .  The incidence rate of developing a cold, school absence and prescription of antibiotics was also found to be lower in the zinc group.

The authors conclude that (1)Zinc administered within 24 hours of onset of symptoms reduces the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people. When supplemented for at least five months, it reduces cold incidence, school absenteeism and prescription of antibiotics in children. There is potential for zinc lozenges to produce side effects. In view of this and the differences in study populations, dosages, formulations and duration of treatment, it is difficult to make firm recommendations about the dose, formulation and duration that should be used”.

It is important to note that zinc supplements should not be used long-term due to concerns of toxicity.  Excessive amounts of this mineral can lead to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.  Scientists say that more work is needed to determine the exact dose of zinc required to prevent and treat the common cold.

There is no proven treatment for the common cold, but experts believe zinc medications may help prevent and lessen infections by coating the common cold viruses and stopping them from entering the body through the thin lining of the nose.  It also appears to stop the virus from replicating, at least in laboratory tests.   There is also the suggestion that zinc aids the immune system and may dampen down some of the unpleasant reactions the body has to an invading virus.


In a BBC news article the lead researcher of the review, Meenu Singh, said (2)This review strengthens the evidence for zinc as a treatment for the common cold”.  “However, at the moment, it is still difficult to make a general recommendation, because we do not know very much about the optimum dose, formulation or length of treatment.

According to trial results, zinc syrup, lozenges or tablets taken within a day of the onset of cold symptoms reduce the severity and length of illness.   At seven days, more of the patients who took zinc remedies every couple of hours during the daytime had cleared their symptoms compared to those who took placebos.   And children who took 15mg of zinc syrup or zinc lozenges daily for five months or longer caught fewer colds and took less time off school.

Editor in Chief of the Cochrane Library, David Tovey, said (2): “This is a treatment that is showing some promise which, where treating the common cold is concerned, is unusual”.   “Although there are many over-the-counter cold remedies already available, we are not awash with things that can stop cold symptoms or greatly reduce their severity”. “But there is still uncertainty about the best doses, timings and formulations and more studies will be needed to look at this.

Zinc lozenges and dissolvable tablets and drinks often contain vitamin C, another nutrient which some studies suggest may be useful in reducing the severity and duration of cold symptoms.  If you feel a cold coming on it may be useful to try sucking on a lozenge every three hours or so while symptoms persist.  However, more evidence will be needed before firm recommendations about dose and duration of zinc supplementation can be made.  It is important to check with a medical doctor prior to beginning any kind of supplement regiment.  Good food sources of zinc include red meat, poultry, beans, wholegrains, nuts and seeds as well as some seafood such as crab.  The zinc found in plants such as beans and wholegrains is more difficult for the body to absorb since it is bound up with substances known as phytates which reduce its bioavailability in the body.

(1)Singh M & Das RR.  2011.  Intervention Review.  Zinc for the common cold.  Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.  2011, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001364. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub3.

(2)Michelle Roberts.  2011.  BBC News.  Zinc can be ‘effective treatment’ for common colds.  16 February 2011.

Written by Ani Kowal


Boosting immune health. Can ‘back to school’ coughs and colds be prevented?

Continuing with the theme of child health I have decided to look at the prevention of common infections such as those of the ear, nose and throat, and tummy upsets.  Children returning to school after the long holiday break will be exposed to others who they may not have seen in weeks and also to the various ‘bugs’ that they may be carrying.  Fear not, it is not inevitable that your children will end up feeling poorly and catching every illness around them! 

A healthy, strong immune system will help to prevent various infections, or keep them short and less intense if they do occur.  Ensuring that your child is eating healthily will mean that they are getting all the vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids they need in order to keep their immune system fighting fit.  However, I am aware that many children are not regularly getting the recommended daily 5 portions of fruit and vegetables.  This may mean that they are lacking in essential nutrients and their immune system may not be running at optimum.  Certain supplements, specially formulated for children, may be helpful in supporting a healthy diet in order to keep the immune system healthy.  However, a supplement cannot be seen as a replacement for the foundations provided by a healthy lifestyle.

Here I will be looking at some of the evidence which suggests that a multivitamin and mineral supplement taken together with a fish oil supplement (to provide essential omega 3 fatty acids) and a pre/pro-biotic supplement could be useful in helping to prevent childhood infections. 

Two papers have been published by a group of researchers who used a fish oil and multivitamin-mineral supplement in children who regularly suffered from recurrent ear(1) and sinus(2) infections.  The studies were very small and preliminary but both suggested benefit in the prevention of these common childhood conditions.  The researchers suggest that such preventative treatments could reduce the need for prescribed antibiotics.  Evidence also exists to suggest that individuals who suffer from recurrent tonsillitis infections may have a disturbed balance of various vitamins(3,4) and minerals(5), especially lowered zinc levels.

Previously I have written about zinc and vitamin C in relation to the prevention and shortening of the common cold and I would recommend you visit this post for more information. 

A few months ago I wrote about the importance of maintaining a good balance of ‘friendly’ bacteria in the digestive system in order to boost immune function and how evidence suggests that taking a daily probiotic supplement may prevent the occurrence of the common cold.  Children who have suffered from recurrent infections will normally have been exposed to frequent courses of antibiotics.  Antibiotics may indeed have been useful for fighting the bacterial infection, however they also kill many of the beneficial bacteria that would normally live in a healthy gut.  This imbalance could lead to a less efficient immune system and an increased likelihood of further infections.  One study(6) revealed that; in children with acute infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, a probiotic supplement seemed helpful in regulating the immune system.  A recent review paper(7) indicated that probiotics also have immune enhancing effects in children and may prevent infections and diarrhoea. 

A daily supplement containing probiotics and prebiotics (such as FOS fructooligosaccharides) may be worth considering.  For more information on prebiotics and probiotics I would suggest visiting the post on irritable bowel syndrome which defines and explains these supplements.

When considering multi-nutrient supplements I would suggest a child-specific ‘food-state’ supplement as these will be easily absorbed by the body.  Again I would like to stress that supplements should not be seen as a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet plentiful in a variety of colourful fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. 

Best wishes to all children for an enjoyable first term back at school!

(1)Linday LA, Dolitsky JN, Shindledecker RD, Pippenger CE. 2002.  Lemon-flavored cod liver oil and a multivitamin-mineral supplement for the secondary prevention of otitis media in young children: pilot research. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol.  111(7 Pt 1):642-52.
(2)Linday LA, Dolitsky JN, Shindledecker RD.  2004.  Nutritional supplements as adjunctive therapy for children with chronic/recurrent sinusitis: pilot research. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol.  68(6):785-93.
(3)Aleszczyk J et al.  2001.  [Evaluation of vitamin and immune status of patients with chronic palatal tonsillitis][Polish Article].  Otolaryngol Pol.  55:65-67
(4)Shukla GK et al.  1998.  Comparative status of oxidative damage and antioxidant enzymes in chronic tonsillitis patients.  Boll Chim Farm.  137:206-209
(5)Onerci M et al.  1997.  Trace elements in children whith chronic and recurrent tonsillitis.  Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol.  41:47-51
(6)Lykova EA, Vorob’ev AA, Bokovoi AG, Murashova AO.  2001.  [Impaired interferon status in children with acute respiratory infection and its correction with bifidumbacterin-forte] [Article in Russian].  Zh Mikrobiol Epidemiol Immunobiol.   Mar-Apr;(2):65-7 
(7)Nova E, Wärnberg J, Gómez-Martínez S, Díaz LE, Romeo J, Marcos A. Immunomodulatory effects of probiotics in different stages of life. Br J Nutr. 2007 Oct;98 Suppl 1:S90-5.

Written by Ani Kowal


Zinc may help speed recovery from the common cold

Recently my mum came back from a trip with a heavy springtime cold, a member of her travelling party had kindly passed on the infection and poor mum was suffering with the typical symptoms of a tickly throat, headache and runny nose.  Colds are caused by viruses and our susceptibility to these infections is largely dictated by the efficiency of our immune system.  A healthy diet providing our bodies with optimal nutrition may help to keep our immune systems strong and protect us from infection.

The symptoms of a common cold tend to last from a few days to a couple of weeks but most cases are over within one week (fortunately my mum is fit and healthy and her cold only lasted a few days!).   There is mixed evidence with regards prevention and treatment of colds with complementary health methods but I am always one to try ‘beating the bug’ naturally!

One of the nutrients that is essential for the efficient functioning of our immune system is zinc and last month a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases (1) found that using lozenges containing zinc at the first sign of a cold (within 24 hours of developing symptoms) was associated with reduced duration and severity of cold symptoms.  This study adds weight to previous research indicating that zinc lozenges, sucked in the mouth and not swallowed whole, seem to help prevent infection from the common cold and also accelerate recovery once infected. 

This most recent study involved 50 volunteers who had suffered cold symptoms, such as a cough, runny nose and muscle aches, for less than 24 hours. Half of the participants were given zinc lozenges, containing about 13mg of zinc, and half were given inactive ‘placebo’ lozenges (the two groups were not aware of which lozenges they had been assigned).  They then took one lozenge every 2 to 3 hours while awake.  The group taking the zinc lozenges had cold symptoms for an average of 3 days less than those taking the placebo.  Every cell in our body needs zinc and the investigators believe that beneficial clinical effects seen in the zinc group were due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that this nutrient has in the body.

Lozenges and dissolvable tablets and drinks often contain vitamin C, another nutrient which some studies suggest (2) may be useful in reducing the severity and duration of cold symptoms.  If you feel a cold coming on it may be useful to try sucking on a lozenge every three hours or so while symptoms persist.  

(1) Prasad AS, Beck FW, Bao B, Snell D, Fitzgerald JT.  2008.  Duration and severity of symptoms and levels of plasma interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor, and adhesion molecules in patients with common cold treated with zinc acetate.  J Infect Dis.  Mar 15;197(6):795-802
(2) Van Straten et al.  2002.  Preventing the common cold with a vitamin C supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey.   Adv Ther.  19(3):151-159

Written by Ani Kowal