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Zinc supplements may help reduce symptoms of respiratory infections: Study

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Zinc supplements may help stave off symptoms of respiratory tract infections such as coughs, congestion and sore throat, and reduce the duration of illness, according to a review of studies.

However, the study published in the journal BMJ Open cautions that the quality of the evidence on which these results are based is variable, and it is not clear what might be an optimal formulation or dose of this nutrient.

Respiratory tract infections include the common cold, the flu, sinusitis, pneumonia, and COVID-19.

Researchers, including those at the University of Western Sydney in Australia, noted that zinc plays a key role in immunity, inflammation, tissue damage, blood pressure, and in tissue responses to starvation. oxygen.

It has generated considerable interest during the current pandemic for the possible prevention and treatment of COVID-19 infection, they said.

“The marginal benefits, strain specificity, drug resistance, and the potential risks of other over-the-counter and prescription drugs make zinc a viable ‘natural’ alternative for self-management of non-specific (respiratory tract) infections. ), ”The study’s authors noted.

“(Zinc) also offers clinicians a management option for patients who are desperate for faster recovery times and might be looking for a prescription for unnecessary antibiotics,” they added.

The review included 28 clinical trials involving 5,446 adults, published in 17 English and Chinese research databases up to August 2020.
None of the trials specifically looked at the use of zinc for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

The most commonly used zinc formulations were lozenges followed by nasal sprays and gels containing either zinc acetate or gluconate salts.
The doses varied widely, depending on the formulation and whether the zinc was used for prevention or treatment.

Pooled analysis of the results of 25 trials showed that, compared to placebo, zinc lozenges or nasal spray prevented five respiratory tract infections in 100 people per month.

In three studies, these effects were strongest in reducing the risk of developing more serious symptoms, such as fever and flu-like symptoms.

On average, symptoms resolved two days earlier with the use of a zinc spray or liquid formulation taken under the tongue than when a placebo was used.

During the first week of illness, participants who used sublingual or nasal spray zinc were almost twice as likely to recover than those who used a placebo.

Up to 19 other adults in 100 were likely to still have symptoms a week later if they didn’t use zinc supplements, the researchers said.
While zinc was not associated with a decrease in mean daily symptom severity, it was linked to a clinically significant reduction in symptom severity on day 3, they said.

Side effects, including nausea and irritation of the mouth or nose, were about 40% more likely in people using zinc, but no serious side effects were reported in the 25 trials that monitored them.

However, compared to placebo, sublingual zinc did not reduce the risk of developing infection or cold symptoms after inoculation with human rhinovirus, according to the researchers.

There were also no differences in the duration of illness between those who used zinc supplements and those who did not, they said.

The researchers warned that the comparative effectiveness of different formulations and doses of zinc was also unclear.

They also noted that the quality, size and design of the included studies varied widely.

The team also included researchers from the US National University of Natural Medicine, Southern Cross University and the University of Sydney in Australia, and McMaster University in Canada.

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