Zinc may curb cold symptoms…

… and leprechauns might throw parties in my underpants drawer. Prove it’s not true. I’m self reporting it. It’s happening NOW.bacteria

A link to this article on Zinc and its effect on the common cold was just sent in by one of our readers. Lauren writes,

So there “may” be something to Zicam after all?

Thanks for the link Lauren but I’m gonna call health reporting shenanigans.

The CNN Health article is filled with more appeals to authority than facts, the doctor they interviewed wasn’t even involved in the research. The authors of the study said they would stop short of recommending zinc. Ah, but the doctor NOT involved in the research would recommend it.

No mention of the potential risk of permanent loss of smell.

No link to the actual study.

And what the f is with self-reporting of sniffles instead of direct exposure to rhinovirus? Maybe the kids had allergies. I call BS.

What do you think fellow skeptics?

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. I agree with you 100%. Based on everything I read about this article yesterday the headline yesterday could have been just as well have been “Zinc Probably Has No Effect on Colds.” The authors reviewed a series of studies with low quality, no consistent methodology or product (any form of zinc was acceptable), and none of which have been reproduced.

    I have a surefire way to catch fewer colds using zinc. I’ll just take some zinc oxide and write “Frottage Addict” on my forehead. I’m sure the social isolation would drastically cut my risk of infection.

  2. Even if zinc could help cold symptoms, I wouldn’t risk the loss of smell. How the heck would anyone think that’s a worthwhile trade-off?

  3. Just to be methodical about it, decades ago I tried several experiments and in my limited trials, Zinc had no effect on colds on subjects in our house. Werther’s butterscotch toffee sweets had no effect either, but were found to be potentially habit forming.

    On the leprechaun parties in your underpants drawer question, I will need unfettered access to said underpants for experimental and forensic purposes before I can have an informed opinion.

  4. @davew: “I have a surefire way to catch fewer colds using zinc. I’ll just take some zinc oxide and write “Frottage Addict” on my forehead. I’m sure the social isolation would drastically cut my risk of infection.” COTW – especially because I had to look up what “frottage” meant. Vocabulary expansion FTW

  5. My local news just reported that zinc might cure your cold. No mention of the possible loss of sense of smell.


    Except every person you meet will come up and ask you what frottage is, which will increase your exposure when you demonstrate it for them.

  6. The linked article doesn’t even say it cures it. All it says is at best it make it less severe. This is not a cure.

    Further the article says quoting “Zinc inhibits rhinoviral replication and has been tested in trials for treatment of the common cold”
    this isn’t killing the virus but making it so it can’t replicate as fast.

  7. “No mention of the potential risk of permanent loss of smell.”

    Er, since when is there a risk of permanent loss of smell from “zinc supplements” taken as “syrup, lozenges, or tablets”? (Quoting from the article here– they don’t appear to be covering the nasal spray.)

  8. @iarna: The reference to Zicam in the original email caused me assume that the meta analysis encompassed the nasal sprays. But you appear to be correct. They seem to just reference “supplements” as syrup, lozenges and tablets.

    I am not too clear on the safety of the oral lozenges but I do know the spray can zap your smell forever. Can the lozenges or syrup damage taste or smell? Anyone know? And still, there is not enough evidence to warrant taking zinc especially with no actual dose amount evaluated for safety or efficacy.

  9. I was skeptical of Zicam and the whole zinc thing for a long time, then I used it a couple times and noticed a significant improvement in the duration of my cold symptoms.
    Hmmm. So I had a big long discussion about it with a good friend who is an immunologist and he thought that there is a very real possibility that by blocking the receptor sites on the cell membranes where virus attach themselves, it might just have a significant effect on the life cycle of the pathogens. Seems they die quite quickly if they can’t attach and spew their load of nucleic acid into the cell.
    I recently talked to another friend who is an internist and he is beginning to believe that this stuff works.

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