Long touted for its support of the immune system, wound healing, and the senses of smell and taste, zinc is the mineral of choice for many when it comes to treating the common cold. Its popularity has gotten a boost from COVID-19. A survey shows it to be the biggest seller among supplements since the pandemic began.
Taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of any respiratory virus symptoms may be protective because of its activity against replication of the virus in the nasopharynx and throat. James A. Robb, MD, a molecular virologist who did pioneering work on coronaviruses in the 1970s, has suggested stocking up on zinc lozenges, but also urged caution, saying, “Using zinc lozenges as directed by the manufacturer is no guarantee against being infected by the virus, even if it inhibits the viral replication in the nasopharynx.”
Emphasizing the inhibitory effect of zinc on the replication of other coronaviruses, researchers M. T. Rahman and S. Z. Izid suggest that the mineral may be useful as an adjuvant therapy when combined with antiviral drugs.
Women need only 8 milligrams (mg) of zinc per day, and men, 11 mg. It’s readily available in chicken, red meat, and fortified cereals. Taking more than 40 mg per day is not advisable, according to the National Institutes of Health.