January 13, 2022

Zinc or not to zinc?

Think zinc for your health

It’s that time of year again. Cold and flu season–not to mention the other virus that just won’t quit no matter what season we’re in. Looking to get the upper hand? Maybe zinc is your answer.

What’s the deal with zinc?

You’ve probably seen it listed on packaging for cold and flu remedies. That’s because evidence seems to suggest that taking oral zinc soon after sniffles start may help reduce the duration and severity of the cold/flu like symptoms. 

The benefits of zinc when you’re under the weather.

Results are inconclusive (more on that later) but the consensus seems to be that zinc does make a difference.

·      Common cold and flu like illnesses: OTC zinc in lozenges, etc., may shorten symptoms by as much as 2 days (research is inconclusive about prevention) 

·      COVID-19: According to a study in Barcelona, Spain, doctors found that those with lower levels of zinc in their systems fared poorer against the virus. "Lower zinc levels at admission correlate with higher inflammation in the course of infection and poorer outcome," said representatives of the Hospital Del Mar. 

Wait, but that’s not all…

The fact is, you need zinc, whether you’re under the weather or not. It’s a micronutrient essential for making proteins and DNA, aiding childhood development and growth, healing wounds, supporting sexual health–and of course boosting our immune systems against bacteria and viruses.

Here’s the thing with zinc, though. Our bodies can’t store it. Which means in order to maintain the proper level for optimal health, you need regular intake through diet or supplements. 

Zinc-rich foods

Fortunately, many foods are good sources of zinc. Red meat, shellfish, nuts, dairy, legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils)–even dark chocolate–can provide the recommended daily amount in a balanced diet.

How much zinc do I need?

Men:              11 milligrams (mg)

Women:         8 milligrams (mg)

For a bit of perspective:
1 burger = about 13% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
1 cup of milk = about 9%. 
1 ounce of cashews (16-18 nuts) = about 15% 

How much is too much?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines say 40 mg of zinc a day is the most an adult should take and 4 mg of zinc is the most for infants under 6 months.

Does zinc interact with my meds?

Zinc can moderately interact with the following medications in different ways. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any of the medications listed below and wish to take a zinc supplement. In fact, we recommend asking your pharmacist about OTC supplements any time you are taking a prescription medication.

·      Antibiotics (Quinolone or Tetracycline)  

·      Cisplatin (Platinol-AQ) 

·      Penicillamine (Cuprimine, Depen) 

·      Cephalexin (Keflex) 

·      Ritonavir (Norvir) 

·      Medications for HIV/AIDS (Integrase inhibitors) interacts with ZINC 


Zinc, you gotta have it to maintain your health. Fortunately, a balanced diet provides the recommended daily allowances. 

Zinc supplements? It’s up to you. If taken as recommended and keeping possible interactions with prescriptions in mind, zinc is safe and beneficial to your overall health. 

Evidence suggests it can help you fight off cold/flu/COVID-19 viruses, but it isn’t conclusive. 

This from Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, Senior Faculty Editor at Harvard Health Publishing about the effectiveness of zinc for treating colds and the flu: 

“I remain steadfastly on the fence. But it wouldn’t take much — 

perhaps one more large, well-designed, randomized controlled trial — 

to push me onto the zinc bandwagon.”


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