Pound Those Zinc Supplements! And Wash Your Hands To Stop Colds

In a showdown between Vitamin C and zinc supplements over who can better stop the common cold — zinc supplements win, hands down. That’s the result of a new study published this week by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Oh yes, there’s one other little step you a take to ward off that nasty cold. Wash your hands.

“The best evidence for the prevention of the common cold supports hand-washing and possibly the use of zinc supplements,” an author of the study, Dr. Michael Allan, of the University of Alberta, told The Daily Telegraph newspaper. “Although self-limiting, the common cold is highly prevalent and may be debilitating. It causes declines in function and productivity at work and may affect other activities such as driving.”

Thank you, Doctor. We all know getting a cold is a miserable experience. But what about all of that Vitamin C we’ve been pounding? Not to mention that echinacea, ginseng and other herbal and homeopathic remedies.

Just a big waste of money?

Yes, say the study’s authors, who looked at 67 previous studies that checked out how differing remedies stack up against the pesky and resilient viruses that cause the common cold, with its attendant sore throat, sneezing, stuffiness, coughing and just general crappy feelings.

Allan’s study found that, basically, nothing works to stop the onset of a cold — except zinc supplements and hand washing.

And daily zinc supplements were shown only to be effective in children, but that’s because adults were not studied. Allan said that they would likely work for adults, too.

“It wouldn’t be something I’d recommend on a regular basis,” he said, noting that taking to much zinc can cause an upset stomach, and just plain tastes bad.

Actually, there was one other type of supplement, besides zinc, that Allan found showed some effectiveness in battling colds: probiotics. Those are the so-called “good bacteria” necessary for digestion that can be taken as supplements but also can be found in yogurt and similar dairy products.

But Allan doesn’t actually recommend probiotics because the earlier studies he looked at didn’t distinguish between types of bacteria. Some probiotic supplements may help prevent colds, others might not. Currently, there’s no way to tell.

So for now, keep your hands clean, and down those zinc supplements.