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Zinc: A Solution to Assist the Fight Against Viral Infections

Among the various plants and nutraceuticals under the spotlight during these pandemic times—such as elderberry, vitamin D, quercetin, or even N‑acetylcysteine, as well as others—there is zinc, which is considered as an essential mineral for the immune system. Its popularity is due to the fact that it helps reinforce the body’s natural defenses, including during an infection. Actually, by contributing to the augmentation of the number of lymphocytes—white blood cells capable of destroying the cells known to be infected—zinc can prevent the growth of some viruses, such as influenza or Herpes simplex .[1]

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis including 28 randomized placebo-controlled trials and 5,446 participants confirmed the preventive and curative effects of zinc on acute upper respiratory infections (URI) in adults.[2] At the end of the study, it was established that the prophylactic (preventive) use of zinc reduced the risk of developing an URI‑associated disease (oral or intranasal administration of zinc prevented an average of 5 URI for 100 persons per month). Used as a treatment against URI, zinc shortened the duration of symptoms by two days on average, and it significantly reduced their severity at day 3.

While this study included a cohort of people not susceptible to zinc deficiency, it is important to note that this issue affects nearly 30% of the elderly population, and eventually strict vegetarians; pregnant women; as well as individuals suffering from alcoholism, kidney disorders, or gastrointestinal malabsorption. These populations are therefore naturally more likely to reap the benefits of zinc which, beyond its immune effects, also contributes to healthy cellular function, healthy skin and tissues, hormonal balance, and fertility, as well as to the prevention of degenerative diseases as a result of its major role as an antioxidant.[3], [4]

Finally, as with any other active substance, whether allopathic or natural, it is essential to follow the appropriate guidelines and to not exceed recommended dosage, as an excessive intake of zinc can be toxic.[5] To make sure you are using zinc appropriately, it is always highly recommended to be accompanied by a naturopathic doctor.

 

References

[1]       Wessels, I., M. Maywald, et L. Rink. « Zinc as a gatekeeper of immune function. » Nutrients, Vol. 9, N° 12 (2017): 1286.

[2]       Hunter, J., S. Arentz, J. Goldenberg, G. Yang, J. Beardsley, S.P. Myers, D. Mertz, et S. Leeder. « Zinc for the prevention or treatment of acute viral respiratory tract infections in adults: A rapid systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. » BMJ Open, Vol. 11, N° 11 (2021): e047474.

[3]       Grosdidier, R. Le guide des compléments alimentaires. Paris, Guy Trédaniel, 2011.

[4]       Murray, M.T., et J. Pizzorno. The encyclopedia of natural medicine, Third edition. New York, Atria, 2012.

[5]       Health information, National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc fact sheet for health professionals. · https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/ · Mis à jour le 2020‑07‑15.