Zinc acetate could help you beat a summer cold

Blast summer colds with this powerful form of zinc

Q: It feels like my wife, two kids and I have been passing around the same cold all summer! Vacation is in a couple of weeks, and we’d really like to all be healthy. I’m not wild about giving cough medicine to my children, who are both under 12. We’ve tried zinc, but didn’t have much luck. Any other ideas?

Dr. Wright: Don’t give up on zinc just yet. There’s a good chance you’ve been using the wrong kind.

But first, let me point out that it’s better to prevent a cold than to cure a cold. You can avoid colds by staying away from sugar and foods you may be allergic to, exercising, supplementing with vitamins D and C, and adding other immune boosters including Echinacea and American ginseng.

But when a cold does develop, research shows that zinc acetate is an easy and inexpensive remedy. In March 2008, researchers performed a study where 50 volunteers with colds used either a zinc acetate lozenge or a placebo every two to three hours. On average, members of the zinc acetate group had colds that lasted four days, compared to 7.1 days for the placebo group. The zinc acetate group also had shorter cough duration (2.1 vs. 5 days) and shorter duration of nasal discharge (3 vs. 4.5 days).

But here’s the key — you need to read the label and make sure the lozenges are zinc acetate, not zinc gluconate, zinc gluconateglycinate, zinc ascorbate, zinc aspartate, or any other form of zinc!

In zinc lozenges, the zinc is always combined with another molecule, but the molecule that kills cold germs is “ionic zinc” — the positively charged zinc molecule that has been detached in your saliva from its accompanying molecule. The “acetate” form of zinc separates 100%, leaving all the ionic zinc available to kill those cold germs. Unfortunately, none of the other zinc combinations are quite as effective.

If you haven’t been using zinc acetate, give it a try. And let’s see if we can keep your vacation sniffle-free!

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