Cold-Eeze Zinc Lozenges: Do They Work?

For the past couple days or so I’ve been fighting through a minor cold and last night when I was getting ready for bed I found myself sucking on a Cold-Eeze zinc lozenge while flipping through some magazines. My wife, being a third year medical student, has medical journals laying all over the place so I picked on up and found the first story to be an essay on zinc so naturally I flipped open to the story as I was sucking on zinc at that very moment.

Zinc as a Cold Remedy

For those that don’t know zinc is touted to be a natural cold remedy. The box of Cold-Eeze even says "clinically proven to reduce the duration of the common cold." The box then goes on to cite two clinical studies conducted at the Cleveland Clinic and at Dartmouth College and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (July 15, 1996) and the Journal of International Medicine Research (June 1992). According to the manufactures of Cold-Eeze these two studies showed that the product reduces the duration and severity of the cold by 42 percent or 3-4 days.

The funny thing though is that the journal I read last night, American Family Physician (May 1, 2009), found that zinc lozenges show no evidence of a statistically significant reduction in duration of upper respiratory infections (URI) other wise known as colds. Having read this I was dumbfounded. How could the box be preaching incorrect truths and here I was stuck sucking on a lozenge that was proven to have no benefit whatsoever. Then my wife chimed in and reminded me of the placebo effect.

The Placebo Effect

I wrote about this yesterday as some doctors are prescribing placebos in lieu of drugs. Apparently according to American Family Physician zinc lozenges do statistically improve URI symptoms and duration and frequency for the malnourished or those coming from third-world backgrounds. They also pose no threat to over consumption. Therefore the power of the placebo takes over in the well nourished people of the world like myself. It’s not exactly the zinc that makes you better quicker, it’s your mind.

Zinc and Macular Degeneration

Anyway, the journal did reference one benefit to zinc supplementation or lozenges which pertained to the worsening of age-related macular degeneration. There is 27 percent less risk of worsening macular degeneration when a sufferer supplements with zinc and no correlation to the prevention of the condition in the first place. The downside comes with a slight increased risk of urinary tract infections. There are some other methods of preventing the worsening of macular degeneration which are dietary in nature.

So now, this Friday morning, I continue sucking on Cold-Eeze for no good reason. Thanks science for explaining to me why this isn’t helping; I guess I'm just going to have to try and get more sleep.

Have a good weekend everybody!

American Family Physician, May 1, 2009

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