Podcast

Zinc Definitely Fights Colds, But You’re Probably Using the Wrong Kind

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Only the right formulation of high-concentration zinc acetate lozenges will work.

In episode 30, I talk about the use of zinc lozenges to fight colds. While nutritional zinc does support the immune system and your immunity may benefit from zinc supplements or zinc-rich foods, this has nothing to do with the use of zinc lozenges to kill colds. The science behind their use is strong, but it also suggests that most of the dozens of zinc lozenges on the market are absolutely useless. The only ones I currently use and recommend are Life Extension Enhanced Zinc Lozenges. Listen in to find out why!

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Show Notes for Episode 30

In this episode, you can find all of the following and more:

00:37     Cliff Notes
12:55     Zinc status is important to immune function, but that's not what this podcast is about. Nevertheless, I go through basic tips of getting good zinc nutrition.
16:48     My typical use of zinc for colds has missed the point.
18:08     Zinc has to be a lozenge to kill the common cold. In fact, the original discovery of its role in killing the cold was born from a child refusing to swallow a tablet and letting it dissolve in her mouth.
20:15       The main mechanisms by which zinc kills colds.
21:10       Importance of zinc ionization in nasal and adenoid tissue.
23:26      Importance of taking it at the right time (first couple of days of a cold).
27:10       pH of nose and throat tissue, not saliva, is important.
27:55       Gluconate and acetate are effective, but acetate is twice as effective as gluconate.
29:08     Astringency and metallic taste must be present, but are not sufficient.
31:35      Food acids used to cover taste such as citrate or tartrate cannot be present.
34:30     Magnesium cannot be present in a form that ionizes in the nose and throat.
36:30     Time of contact with membranes makes concentration, time to dissolve, and frequency of use important.
39:50     Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
42:20     Meta-analysis of individual patient data and lack of effect of age, sex, baseline cold severity, allergy status, race, and ethnicity
44:00      George Eby's model showing a strong correlation between predicted ionic zinc yield and efficacy in RCTs suggests that the right dose of the right formulation taken at the right time in the right way could constitute a true cure of the common cold.
45:45     Only Life Extension Enhanced Zinc Lozenges fit the criteria.
54:13      My story with Life Extension zinc acetate lozenges.

How to Get the Right Zinc Lozenges at the Best Price

By far and away, the most cost-effective way to get the Life Extension Enhanced Zinc Lozenges right now is to order four from the Life Extension web site. To do so, click on “Select Multi-Unit Discount” and change it to “4 Units.” Until January 31, Life Extension's “Super Sale” has them 32% off when sold singularly and 55% off when sold in a pack of four. Shipping costs $5.50, but spread across four bottles it's only $1.37 per bottle. Compared to the Amazon Prime option (which, in any case, is out of stock until December 30), despite its free shipping, buying a four-pack from Life Extension saves 39%. Compared to the least expensive non-Prime options on Amazon, it saves 28%.

Personally, I had the misfortune of accidentally buying from one of the non-Prime sellers on Amazon, and in the process accidentally paid for shipping when I thought I was getting it free, and on December 26 its current status is “Expected December 16, 2016: On the Way.”

One bottle contains 30 lozenges, which, taken correctly, is sufficient to knock out a cold in a single person. The cost of one bottle, with shipping, when ordering four from Life Extension is $6.77.

Having more than one bottle is great for frequent cold sufferers, households where more than one person may get sick, or someone who wants to be prepared for next time. To use this properly, you need to have it on hand before you get sick. Therefore, at least through January 31, 2017, I think the best way to get this is to order four from Life Extension and the second best is to order fewer than four from them.

Should You Take Copper While Taking Zinc Lozenges?

While it might not be necessary, I think it's a good idea to take 2-3 mg of copper with each meal while taking the zinc lozenges, and to stop both as soon as the cold is gone. This is because the portion of zinc that reaches the intestines can trap copper in intestinal cells and cause it to soon after be lost in the feces.

I don't have strong opinions about which copper supplement is best, but here are the options that seem most cost-effective:

My Cold Season War Chest of High-Impact Supplements

This podcast was a result of research I did for My Cold Season War Chest of High-Impact Supplements, which was a gift to my email list. This guide provides a broader context of supplements I find useful during cold season. If you subscribe to my email list using this link, you will immediately get the opportunity to download the War Chest email as a pdf.

Research Related to Episode 30

George Eby, Zinc lozenges as cure for the common cold — a review and hypothesis.

Harri Hemilä, Zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of colds: a systematic review.

Hemilä, Petrus, Fitzgerald, and Prasad, Zinc acetate lozenges for treating the common cold: an individual patient data meta-analysis.

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34 Comments

  1. I recently read a recommendation from a virologist to use zinc lozenges to help reduce sx of covid-19. What zinc product are you using now? The one recommended here currently contains stearic acid and citric acid as well as orange flavoring, though the peppermint version does not contain citric acid or orange flavorings but does contain vegetable stearate.

  2. Has Life Extension changed their ingredients since you made this post? They have stearic acid as an ingredient- or is that not one of the “ic acids” you say should not be in there?
    Life Extension Enhanced Zinc Lozenges (from your link to Life Extension)”
    Zinc (as zinc acetate)-18.75 mg
    Life Extension ingredients: Other ingredients: dextrose, peppermint flavor, stearic acid, vegetable stearate, silica.
    “Now, if you don’t have access to the Life Extension products because of where you are in terms of maybe they don’t ship to your area, then basically what you want to do is you want to look for a product that, number one, has a high dose. It should have at least 10 to 20 milligrams or somewhere between 10 and 20 milligrams of zinc per lozenge. It should be zinc acetate if you can find it, and if you can’t find it use zinc gluconate. It should not have anything that ends in “ate” or anything that ends in “ic acid” in the ingredients. No citrate, no citric acid, no tartrate, no tartric acid, for example, bitartrate, whatever. Nothing that ends in “ic acid” or “ate” should be in the ingredients. The only exception to “ate” would be anything used as a lubricant such as magnesium stearate. “

  3. Here is a related suggestion that was printed in a medical journal in 1898. Often, great medical discoveries are discovered, forgotten, and later rediscovered.

    “Treatment of Acute Coryza.—Dr. Rice, in the May Post-Graduate, outlines his routine treatment for colds as follows First, he uses a solution of cocaine, not stronger than 5 per cent., and five minutes later insufflates a combination of six parts of compound stearate of zinc with boric acid and one part each of the compound stearate powder with alum and with cocaine. The patient is instructed to use this powder three times a day, blowing it in, while holding the breath, at the end of a deep inspiration. He is also warned not to blow his nose repeatedly, as serum will be formed in the nostrils as fast as expelled. Antiseptic washing is indicated in the later stage only. Laxatives, phenacetine, salol, etc., may be employed by way of general treatment. — Louisville Med. Monthly.”
    https://archive.org/stream/americantherapis7189unse#page/n5/mode/2up The American Therapist Vol. VII Nov. 1898 No 5 (The original article was published in the “Louisville Med. Monthly”, and the above quote if from a summary that was published in the “American Therapist”.)
    Just for the record, I wouldn’t suggest using cocaine.

    1. I was going to ask him the same thing. Source Naturals makes a zinc lozenge (zinc gluconate) that’s more suitable for on-going use than the 30c Life Extension zinc acetate product.

      Oh, and here’s a link to Hemila’s May 2017 meta analysis looking at the two forms of zinc used in clinical trials…
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28515951

  4. Thank you so much for all of this information.

    I just want to ask for clarity on Life Extension Zinc, it’s better than any other lozenge because there’s no citrate or tartrate, and no Magnesium? Right?

    Planning on purchasing from Amazon since I’m international, so wish me luck that I don’t get dupped like the other (above) guy!

    1. That depends whether it is due to zinc deficiency. However, it is reasonable to double the RDA of zinc during episodes of diarrhea.

  5. Is it okay to take medication to manage symptoms while taking these?

    I’ve been taking them every two hours, but my nose has continued to run like a faucet.

    Will taking some diphenhydramine to dry me up affect the effectiveness of the zinc?

  6. thanks for this info Chris!

    i got some of these lozenges to have on hand. then one night before bed i got some cold symptoms turning on fast, sneezing lots, and blowing tons of stuff out of my nose. so i popped one in my mouth (damn they are huge!) and sucked on it as a went to sleep.

    i got up 4 hrs later to pee and was totally symptom free! wiped it all out with one tablet!

    i couldn’t believe it, so sucked on another one as i went back to sleep – and i was totally fine feeling and symptom free the next day.

    very very miraculous! i don’t think i’ve ever had a supplement of any kind do something this effectively.

    i really thank you for this wonderful information about the zinc lozenges! i told my whole family to get these for their “health tool bags”.

  7. I appreciate the information and wanted to get some of the zinc suggested for my next cold (don’t have them very often). However, I just couldn’t when I found 4 grams of sugar in each lozenge. Is that correct? I can”t eat a teaspoon of sugar every hour or two. I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

  8. Hi Chris,
    Any thoughts on whether these lozenges are fine for children? I’d love to try it out on them but I’m not sure if it’s okay or not for kids. I know you don’t give medical advice, but I’d appreciate your opinion on this. Thanks for your thoughts!
    Lisa

  9. Hey Chris, do you think there’s any danger of cadmium contamination in zinc supplements? From what I’ve read, it seems that because of the similarity of these elements, they are hard to separate and thus lozenges could contain cadmium.

    Taking a zinc lozenge is a lot more convenient than trying to micromanage my diet.

    Thoughts are appreciated, thanks.

  10. I see that one of the ingredients from the Life Extension zinc lozenges is dextrose. My understanding is dextrose can sometimes be made from GMO corn. Do you know anything about this and if Life Extension uses non-GMO ingredients?

  11. When trying to purchase from the Life Extension website, I get a strange message saying that the specific product can’t be delivered to California. Then it says this:

    “Item 01961 cannot be shipped to CALIFORNIA. However, we found a replacement formula 01961C and have added it to your Shopping Cart for your convenience.”

    Know anything about this, Chris?

    1. Hi Chris,

      I don’t know anything about that. However, Life Extension has good phone support so I’m sure they could explain it.

      Chris

  12. Hey Chris,

    I purchased Life Extension Zinc Losenges from Amazon, and didn’t realize I bought a slightly different one than the link you recommended. The bottle looks almost identical, but it says Zinc oxide, gluconate 18.75mg. Did I get hosed here? Seems Life Extension makes slightly different versions of this losenge.

    Thanks
    Chris

    1. Hi Chris,

      Yes those are the wrong ones. That’s why I linked directly to the ones being discussed here.

      Chris

    1. N, this will support the immune system but will not kill a cold. This is explained in the podcast.

    1. I don’t know, Ben, but I do know that it won’t help kill a cold because to kill colds lozenges have to take 20-30 minutes to dissolve in the mouth in order to allow time for ionized zinc to diffuse into nasal and adenoid tissue.

  13. Thank you for this detailed information!
    Cannot listen to the podcast (for various reasons), but the show notes are – thanks! – a great summary.

    Would you give your opinion on Vitamin C in the treatment of a cold? It should not be taken at the same time as zinc, I presume.

    Appreciate your educational work and sharing of your new findings!
    Christine

    1. Hi Christine,

      Briefly, the evidence is conflicting, but vitamin C needs certainly increase during infection and getting more vitamin C into your tissues to compensate for that increased need should help support immunity. I discuss this briefly in my broader discussion of cold supplements at chrismasterjohnphd.com/colds.

      Chris

  14. What are your thoughts on male masturbation and zinc. I hear that it can really deplete zinc. I masturbate 3-5 times a day so im not sure if this is good.

    1. Hi Ken,

      Semen is high in zinc, but I haven’t researched the quantitative effect of this, so I’m not sure exactly how to best compensate.

      Chris

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