The supplement may help reduce severity of symptoms, but it’s not the cure. Let’s look at the science behind it.
As SARS-CoV2 spread across the globe, people are hunkered down and bought as many supplies as possible to last them through the quarantine. We won’t forget the toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages, but if you took a trip to your local drugstore or health food store, you may have noticed an unusual product missing: zinc supplements.
People flocked to zinc supplements because of an email that virologist and pathologist James Robb wrote to family and friends in late February advising them on common-sense ways to protect themselves from the novel corona virus. He mentioned that they should stock up on zinc supplements, and when the email went viral the internet seized on this piece of advice, with some memes even calling zinc a “silver bullet against coronavirus.”
Robb reportedly never meant for the email to be shared widely, but his recommendation is likely rooted in scientific studies that suggest zinc supplements can help treat symptoms of the common cold.
Let’s dig into the implications of those studies, and whether or not it’s a good idea to use zinc to ward off the COVID-19 infection.
The role of zinc in your body
Zinc is a nutrient that helps your immune system fight off infection. It also assists the body in making protein and DNA, and is important in infant and childhood development.
The National Institutes of Health names oysters as the best source of zinc, and you can also get it from red meat, beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy.
If you suspect that you have a zinc deficiency, contact your healthcare provider — this isn’t something you can diagnose at home. Signs of zinc deficiency include hair loss, diarrhea, erectile dysfunction, poor wound healing and mental lethargy. Those with zinc deficiencies have an increased risk for infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. In addition to malnutrition, risk groups for zinc deficiency include the elderly and patients with various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Zinc and the common cold
Researchers have performed several studies testing whether zinc supplements can help treat or prevent the common cold. A comprehensive review of 18 of these trials found that intake of zinc was associated with a reduction in the duration of patients’ common cold symptoms, but not the severity. The chance of developing a cold, an absence from school and antibiotic prescription rates were lower in the groups that took zinc, suggesting that it not only helps reduce the length of the cold but also prevents it.
However, the findings of this study weren’t all good news. People that took zinc also reported more incidences of bad taste and nausea than people who took a placebo. Still, the science suggests that zinc supplements sound pretty helpful in treating the symptoms of the common cold.
I won’t get too scientifically technical with you, but if you’re curious exactly how this happens you can check out this research paper. Essentially, zinc prevents the proliferation of the virus that causes the common cold by throwing a wrench into its RNA replication.
Zinc and SARS-CoV2
The World Health Organization (WHO) assumes that at least one third of the world population is affected by zinc deficiency. The fact that zinc deficiency is responsible for 16% of all deep respiratory infections world-wide provides a first strong hint on a link of zinc deficiency with the risk of infection and severe progression of COVID-19 and suggests potential benefits of zinc supplementation.
Although data specifically on SARS-CoV2 are unfortunately still pending and randomized controlled studies have not been conducted, the overwhelming evidence from the studies thus far strongly suggests great benefits of zinc supplementation. Physiologically, zinc supplementation improves the mucociliary clearance (how the virus enters the body), strengthens the integrity of the epithelium (the cell tissues inside our body), decreases viral replication, preserves antiviral immunity, reduces the risk of hyper-inflammation, supports anti-oxidative effects, reduces lung damage and minimizes additional infections.
The elderly, older patients with chronic diseases and most of the remaining COVID-19 risk groups would most likely benefit from taking a zinc supplement. Although studies are still needed to test the effect of zinc as a therapeutic option for established disease, it is recommended that preventive supplementation for risk groups should begin now, as zinc is a cost-efficient, globally available and simple to use option with little to no side effects. See my suggestions below
Taking too much zinc
Don’t run off to take as much zinc as possible quite yet. There can usually be too much of a good thing, and this applies to zinc supplements too.
For adults, the maximum limit of zinc in oral supplements is 40mg per day, and for children it’s 4mg per day. I recommend 15 mg a day in a liquid form See below
Large amounts of zinc are toxic and may cause copper deficiency, anemia and damage to the nervous system. The Mayo Clinic advises people to avoid zinc nasal sprays, because many people suffer a loss of smell after using them.
Global Healing’s Zinc is an organic, plant-based zinc supplement which I recommend. Zinc is an essential mineral that supports the immune system, digestive system and cellular growth and development. This supplement contains zince derived from guava leaves, enhanced with energized trace minerals for increased bioavailability.
“Zinc is an important nutrient that has a huge impact on your physical and mental well-being. If you’re deficient, you’re going to be under the weather more often and simply feel it throughout your body. With our formula, it’s easy to stay ahead. This liquid extract contains zinc from certified organic guava leaves. Plant-based, all-natural, and enhanced with Energized Trace Minerals, it’s the best zinc supplement for your health and wellness.”
DR. EDWARD F. GROUP III, DC, NP
This vegan, liquid blend is a highly bioavailable, naturally occurring, plant-based zinc that’s water-extracted from certified organic guava leaves. The zinc is naturally bound to plant proteins and amino acids. Plant-based zinc naturally exists in three forms: ionic, chelated, and protein matrix. Ionic is a zinc ion with an unstable charge that likes to bind to other things like water, improving its bioavailability; chelated is zinc bound to another substance like an amino acid, another mineral or other molecule; protein matrix is zinc bound to multiple amino acids.
Dr. Group suggests taking 1 ml (about a dropperful) twice daily with or without food, and this provides 15 mg of zinc. Rest assured that each dropper also has graduated measurements of 1 ml for easy use.