Zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of common cold episodes by up to 40 percent, depending on the total dosage of zinc and the composition of lozenges, according to a study published in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal.
Harri Hemilä of the University of Helsinki, Finland, carried out a meta-analysis of all the placebo-controlled trials that have examined the effect of zinc lozenges on natural common cold infections. Of the 13 trial comparisons identified, five used a total daily zinc dose of less than 75mg and uniformly those five comparisons found no effect of zinc.
Three trials used zinc acetate in daily doses of over 75mg, with the average indicating a 42 percent reduction in the duration of colds. Five trials used zinc salts other than acetate in daily doses of over 75mg, with the average indicating a 20 percent decrease in the duration of colds.
In several studies, zinc lozenges caused adverse effects, such as bad taste, but there was no evidence that zinc lozenges might cause long-term harm. Furthermore, in the most recent trial on zinc acetate lozenges, there were no significant differences between the zinc and placebo groups in the occurrence of adverse effects, even though the daily dose of zinc was 92mg.
Hemila concluded: "Since a large proportion of trial participants have remained without adverse effects, zinc lozenges might be useful for them as a treatment option for the common cold."