Thursday, December 1, 2016

Can You Guess the One Nutritional Supplement That Might Hold Off that Cold?

Did you guess vitamin C? It’s not surprising if you did, but you’d be wrong! While vitamin C has a reputation for cold prevention, the research just doesn’t hold up. The best research shows that zinc sulfate may lower your chances of getting a cold. It might also shorten the length of a cold and help you feel not quite as bad! While the evidence for zinc sulfate and colds is not conclusive, it does look pretty good. In a 2014 research review on cold prevention, researchers ranked taking zinc right up there with hand washing and hand sanitizer as “likely beneficial”.

Here’s what you need to know about safely taking zinc sulfate:

  • Taking 15 mg of zinc sulfate within 24 hours of the start of your cold may shorten the length and severity of your cold.
  • Taking 15 mg throughout the winter may lower your chances of a getting a cold.
  • Check with your doctor first before taking zinc.
  • Don’t use zinc in nasal spray. It can cause an irreversible loss of your sense of smell!
  • Don’t go over the 15 mg oral dose.

You should be able to find zinc sulfate supplements in most drug stores. Look for the “USP” (United States Pharmacopeia) mark as a guarantee of a quality supplement.


Source: Allan GM & Arroll B. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. CMAJ 2014 Feb 18; 186(3): 190-199. 

Beth Kitchin, PhD, RDN
Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham

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