Faculty of Medicine (Office)
Tukholmankatu 8 B, 5th and 6th floors
00014 UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI
p. +358 9 1911
f. +358 9 191 26638
med-studentaffairs (at) helsinki.fi
Feeling a bit under the weather? Suck on zinc!
Sucking on a zinc tablet may cut the time you suffer from the common cold by 40 percent, according to a research based on a literature review conducted at the University of Helsinki.
Researcher Harri Hemilä compared the results from thirteen different researches on the effects of zinc tablets.
— Zinc helps, but the effects depend highly on the texture of the zinc lozenge, Hemilä explains.
The dose must exceed 75 milligrams a day for the zinc to be effective. For the effects to remain positive, the tablet cannot contain any citric acids or other sweeteners, but many tablets still contain precisely those substances. — The duration of the colds were clearly shortened when these conditions were fulfilled.
It takes about seven days to recover from the flu on average. For those who sucked on zinc lozenges, the flu lasted only four days.
The interest for zinc started in the beginning of the 1980s, when the daughter of an American chemist was given zinc tablets to support the treatment of her leukaemia. The big tablets were hard for the girl to swallow, so she started sucking on the tablets instead. To everyone’s amazement the duration of the girl’s colds was suddenly shortened.
A large number of researches have been conducted on zinc tablets since then, but these results have not been thoroughly compared until Hemilä did his literature review. The actual workings mechanisms of zinc are still unknown, however.
— It seems like zinc is effective in the mouth’s and throat’s mucous membranes, because the tablets only work when they slowly dissolve in the mouth.
Unfortunately suitable zinc lozenges are not widely available on the market. Either the amount of zinc in the tablets is too low or they contain additives.
— We depend on the pharmaceutical industry here. Hopefully they will develop more suitable zinc lozenges, says Hemilä.
Text: Juha Merimaa