Zinc For Sore Throats
Q: Are zinc lozenges an effective treatment for a sore throat?
A: I often prescribe zinc lozenges for symptom relief and to speed recovery of colds and sore throats. Although zinc seems to work well, it must be a particular kind of the mineral.
A recent trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that zinc acetate lozenges help reduce the duration of cold symptoms.1 Fifty adult volunteers with cold symptoms were randomly given a lozenge containing either 12.8 mg zinc or a placebo. This was repeated every two to three hours during waking hours as long as the cold symptoms lasted. Those taking the zinc had a significant decrease in symptoms and recovered from their colds much faster—an average of 4.5 days compared with 8 days for the placebo group.
A number of zinc studies have had both positive and negative results. Authors of the current study suggest that the negative results may have been due to the type and amount of zinc used. Zinc appears to work in two ways: by directly reducing the ability of viruses or bacteria to reproduce and by indirectly boosting the systemic immune system. For sore throats, zinc must be released topically on the mucosal surfaces to be effective. Some compounds bind too tightly with the zinc and reduce its ability to do this. I suggest acetate or gluconate lozenges; six to eight lozenges a day (about 100 mg/day) is an effective dose. This high dose should not be continued for more than one week, otherwise there is a risk of imbalancing other minerals, such as copper.
Get The Lead Out
Q: Is the lead found in hair-coloring agents absorbed in the body, and if so, is it toxic?
A: There's no question that lead is toxic, even in minute amounts. Lead is dangerous when inhaled or ingested. I do not believe there is significant lead absorption from hair-coloring agents, and I am not aware of any studies that evaluate increased lead toxicity in people who use them.
At the same time, it is important to remember that lead toxicity is subtle, and the level at which exposure is safe is unknown. In fact, the federal government has consistently lowered the acceptable limit over the past few years as researchers discover that lower concentrations than they had originally thought cause subtle neurological deficits. For instance, very low levels of lead exposure can be a source of learning disabilities in children.
Inflammation May Be A Disease Warning
Q: How can a person determine if chronic inflammation is a sign of heart disease?
A: Current research is linking chronic inflammation to heart disease and diabetes. The blood test hs-CRP, or highly sensitive C-reactive protein test, is used to measure inflammation in the body. Scientists believe this low-level chronic inflammation, and the inflammatory cells (cytokines), can damage blood vessels and affect the body's glucose control. High hs-CRP levels may provide an early warning of the damaging inflammatory process and indicate heart disease and diabetes risk.2,3
Obesity may contribute to inflammation. Results of a recent study showed women who lost weight experienced a drop in their hs-CRP level.4 Researchers also offer evidence that statin-lowering drugs may reduce hs-CRP levels, independent of their effects on cholesterol.5 Aspirin may also lower hs-CRP.6
Dan Lukaczer, N.D., is director of clinical research at the Functional Medicine Research Center, a division of Metagenics Inc., in Gig Harbor, Wash.
1. Prasad AS, et al. Duration of symptoms and plasma cytokine levels in patients with the common cold treated with zinc acetate. Ann Intern Med 2000;133:245-52.
2. Pradhan AD, et al. C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, and risk of developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus. JAMA 2001;286(3):261-74.
3. Chambers JC, et al. C-reactive protein, insulin resistance, central obesity, and coronary heart disease risk in Indian Asians from the United Kingdom compared with European whites. Circulation 2001;104:145-50.
4. Heilbronn LK, et al. Energy restriction and weight loss on very-low-fat diets reduce C-reactive protein concentrations in obese, healthy women. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2001;21:968-70.
5. Albert MA, et al. Effect of statin therapy on C-reactive protein levels: the pravastatin inflammation/CRP evaluation (PRINCE): a randomized trial and cohort study. JAMA 2001 Jul 4;286(1):64-70.
6. Kennon S, et al. The effect of aspirin on C-reactive protein as a marker of risk in unstable angina. J Am Coll Cardiol 2001 Apr;37(5):1266-70.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 9/p. 43