New York: A new look at the medical evidence shows zinc supplements may take the edge off the common cold. But not a whole lot.Although the precise estimate is still uncertain, researchers found that people who started taking zinc-loaded lozenges or syrups within 24 hours of showing symptoms -- a sore throat, say, or runny nose -- shortened their cold by one day. By comparison, a normal cold lasts about a week.Still, with an infection that currently has no good treatment and leads to an estimated 275 million lost work days a year in the U.S., well, what a difference a day makes.The review, published by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research, also shows that people taking the supplements tended to have milder symptoms."I think one can give it a try," said Dr. Meenu Singh, a pediatrician at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, who led the new work."But giving zinc over a long period of time for prevention should be done very carefully," she told Reuters Health.Zinc may interfere with other metals in the body, and that may have unpredictable consequences over the long haul, Singh said.An earlier Cochrane review from 1999 didn`t find any signs that zinc supplements would work. But since then several new studies - known as randomized controlled trials - have been completed.The new review is based on 13 trials with 966 participants who either took zinc or a dummy treatment at the beginning of their symptoms. Another two trials found that zinc helped stave off colds, but the quality of that research was low.
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