Next flu pandemic could claim more than half a million lives
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With flu and Covid “twindemic” set to roam through the country this winter, it might seem impossible to entirely dodge this double whammy. However, you’re not left entirely at the mercy of these viruses. There is a potent supplement that could give your immunity extra boost, according to research.
Between filling up on chicken soup and eating antiviral garlic, the advice on what can help your immunity seems to be endless.
Fortunately, research can help distinguish between what’s an old wives’ tale and what can actually help.
A meta-analysis of 28 randomised trials, published in the British Medical Journal, makes a strong case for making zinc supplements your go-to this winter.
Zinc is a mineral that helps with various processes in your body, including making new cells and enzymes, healing wounds and processing certain parts of your food.
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The researchers found that using the popular supplement as prevention was able to slash your risk of contracting flu-like illnesses by a whopping 68 percent.
What’s more, zinc could also provide a helping hand once you contract the virus, with its ability to shorten the duration of your symptoms.
Looking at 5,446 participants, the research team found that zinc treatment was able to cut the symptom period by around two days to be exact.
Apart from flu, zinc was also shown to reduce the risk of catching a cold – another prevalent culprit linked to the colder months.
While the researchers noticed a higher risk of “non-serious” side effects – think nausea or mouth and nasal irritation – the risk of “serious adverse events” was low.
Jennifer Hunter, integrative medicine doctor, said: “Two things people want to know when they get a cold is how long is it going to last, and how sick am I going to get?
“We found that zinc probably reduces the duration of illness and there were quite a few signals that told us that zinc has the potential to reduce severity, particularly at that peak time of illness between days two and four.
“This provides clinicians and patients with a viable alternative to the inappropriate use of antibiotics, that continues to be a major problem globally.”
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Furthermore, the doctor explained that zinc doesn’t only benefit those who are deficient in the mineral to begin with.
“It is commonly thought that zinc’s role in preventing and treating infections is only for people who are zinc deficient; our findings really challenge this notion,” Hunter added.
While the analysis showed some promising results, the researchers also cautioned that some of the studies included were small, didn’t compare the same dosages, and could include bias in the reporting of symptoms.
This is a risk that comes with meta-analyses as the data is only as reliable as the input.
Hunter said: “Clinicians and consumers need to be aware that considerable uncertainty remains regarding the clinical efficacy of different zinc formulations, doses and administration routes.
“At the moment there just isn’t enough research to say whether a zinc nasal spray, versus a nasal gel, versus a lozenge, versus oral zinc is any better or worse than the others.
“Most of the trials used zinc gluconate or zinc acetate formulations, but that doesn’t mean that other zinc compounds are less effective.”
Despite these uncertainties, the doctor explained that zinc products are widely available, affordable, and generally safe.
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