Dr. Ron’s Research Review – August 10, 2011

This week’s research review focuses on new articles on zinc for the common cold.

A recent Cochrane Review found that zinc administered within 24 hours of onset of symptoms reduces the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people. When supplemented for at least five months, it reduces cold incidence, school absenteeism and prescription of antibiotics in children. (Singh and Das 2011)

There is potential for zinc lozenges to produce side effects. Overall adverse events (OR 1.59; 95% CI 0.97 to 2.58) (P = 0.06), bad taste (OR 2.64; 95% CI 1.91 to 3.64) (P < 0.00001) and nausea (OR 2.15; 95% CI 1.44 to 3.23) (P = 0.002) were higher in the zinc group. (Singh and Das 2011)

Zinc lozenges, however, are more likely to produce side effects than syrup formulations. (Das and Singh 2011) (Singh and Das 2011)

George A. Eby III brings up some important points in a recent article published in the journal Medical Hypotheses. (Eby 2011)

Positively charged, ionic zinc (iZn), but not bound zinc, is strongly astringent, antirhinoviral, increases interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) 10-fold, inhibits intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and inhibits the release of vasoactive ingredients from mast cell granules.

The lozenge iZn fraction varies, with zinc acetate releasing 100% iZn, zinc gluconate releasing 72% iZn, and other zinc compounds releasing much less or none at physiologic pH 7.4.

Due to inadequate lozenge iZn very few of more than 40 different brands of zinc lozenges on the US market are expected to have any effect on the duration or severity of common colds.

Dr. Ron


Articles

Zinc lozenges for the common cold: Should we ignore the side-effects?

            (Das and Singh 2011) Download

Zinc lozenges as cure for the common cold--a review and hypothesis

            (Eby 2011) Download

A 7-day reduction in duration of common colds was shown by Eby et al. in 1984 using 23mg zinc gluconate throat lozenges. Over the following 25years, 14 double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trials produced widely differing results with about one-half showing success and the remainder showing failure. Positively charged, ionic zinc (iZn), but not bound zinc, is strongly astringent, antirhinoviral, increases interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) 10-fold, inhibits intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and inhibits the release of vasoactive ingredients from mast cell granules. Solution equilibrium chemistry analytical techniques showed lozenge iZn fraction varying from 0% to 100% of total lozenge zinc between trials, with zinc acetate (ZA) releasing 100% iZn, zinc gluconate (ZG) releasing 72% iZn and other zinc compounds releasing much less or none at physiologic pH 7.4. Since only iZn has in vitro benefits, iZn variations are hypothesized to have produced the widely varying clinical results. In support of the iZn hypothesis, lozenge iZn and total daily iZn in trials were found highly correlated with reductions in common cold durations with statistical significance for mean duration (P<0.001) and median duration (P<0.004), while total zinc (iZn plus bound) showed no correlation with changes in duration. Duration reductions (mean 0 days, median 0.43 days) for multi-ligand ZG and ZA lozenges differed significantly from duration reductions (mean 3.37 days, median 2.9 days) for single ligand ZA and ZG lozenges (P<0.001) showing that additive ligands as flavor-masks damaged or eliminated efficacy. Five of 6 trials with lozenges whose zinc compositions had a first stability constant of 1.7 or less succeeded, while only 2 of 9 trials of lozenges with higher stability succeeded (P<0.02). From the strong, multiple statistical relationships found, it is inferred that iZn is the active ingredient in zinc lozenges for colds, as it is in vitro against rhinoviruses, and that solution chemistry analytical techniques used at physiological pH are correct means for lozenge iZn analysis. Zinc lozenges slowly dissolving in the mouth over a 20-30 min period releasing adequate iZn (18 mg) used each 2h are hypothesized to shorten common colds by 6-7 days, which is a cure for the common cold. Due to inadequate lozenge iZn very few of more than 40 different brands of zinc lozenges on the US market are expected to have any effect on the duration or severity of common colds.

Zinc for the common cold

            (Singh and Das 2011) Download

BACKGROUND: The common cold is one of the most widespread illnesses and is a leading cause of visits to the doctor and absenteeism from school and work. Trials conducted since 1984 investigating the role of zinc for the common cold symptoms have had mixed results. Inadequate treatment masking and reduced bioavailability of zinc from some formulations have been cited as influencing results. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of zinc on common cold symptoms. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched CENTRAL (2010, Issue 2) which contains the Acute Respiratory Infections Group's Specialised Register, MEDLINE (1966 to May week 3, 2010) and EMBASE (1974 to June 2010). SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials using zinc for at least five consecutive days to treat, or for at least five months to prevent the common cold. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed trial quality. MAIN RESULTS: We included 13 therapeutic trials (966 participants) and two preventive trials (394 participants). Intake of zinc is associated with a significant reduction in the duration (standardized mean difference (SMD) -0.97; 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.56 to -0.38) (P = 0.001), and severity of common cold symptoms (SMD -0.39; 95% CI -0.77 to -0.02) (P = 0.04). There was a significant difference between the zinc and control group for the proportion of participants symptomatic after seven days of treatment (OR 0.45; 95% CI 0.2 to 1.00) (P = 0.05). The incidence rate ratio (IRR) of developing a cold (IRR 0.64; 95% CI 0.47 to 0.88) (P = 0.006), school absence (P = 0.0003) and prescription of antibiotics (P < 0.00001) was lower in the zinc group. Overall adverse events (OR 1.59; 95% CI 0.97 to 2.58) (P = 0.06), bad taste (OR 2.64; 95% CI 1.91 to 3.64) (P < 0.00001) and nausea (OR 2.15; 95% CI 1.44 to 3.23) (P = 0.002) were higher in the zinc group. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Zinc administered within 24 hours of onset of symptoms reduces the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people. When supplemented for at least five months, it reduces cold incidence, school absenteeism and prescription of antibiotics in children. There is potential for zinc lozenges to produce side effects. In view of this and the differences in study populations, dosages, formulations and duration of treatment, it is difficult to make firm recommendations about the dose, formulation and duration that should be used.


References

Das, R. R. and M. Singh (2011). "Zinc lozenges for the common cold: Should we ignore the side-effects?" Med Hypotheses 77(2): 308-9.

Eby, G. A., 3rd (2011). "Zinc lozenges as cure for the common cold--a review and hypothesis." Med Hypotheses 74(3): 482-92.

Singh, M. and R. R. Das (2011). "Zinc for the common cold." Cochrane Database Syst Rev(2): CD001364.