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Using zinc to battle the common cold has long been a topic of debate. Maybe your parents or grandparents have been feeding you zinc lozenges every time you got a tickle in your throat since you were a kid, or maybe you’ve always just steered clear of the stuff.

A group of researchers recently conducted a meta-analysis of existing studies, and found that the mineral might be an actual wonder drug. According to the authors of the report, taking zinc acetate tablets “may increase the rate of recovery from the common cold threefold.”

The analysis looked at three trials that involved around 200 people. Researchers discovered that on the fifth day into a common cold, 70 per cent of those who took zinc each day had bounced back from the illness, compared to only 27 per cent of those who took the placebo.

However, almost all good things seem to come with a catch, and the doses of zinc given to participants in the trials were between 80 and 92 milligrams per day, which is a lot more than the nine milligram per day dose that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recommends taking.

Luckily, according to this study at least, there were no adverse side effects from taking such an elevated amount of zinc over the course of a week or two.

“Given the evidence of efficacy, the common cold patients may be instructed to try zinc acetate lozenges within 24 hours of onset of symptoms,” said Harri Hemila, one of the study’s authors.

While researchers caution that more research is needed to determine the amount of zinc we should be taking and the frequency we should be taking it at, this news may be enough to warrant some self-experimentation the next time you feel a cold coming on. Because five days of being sick is surely long enough.

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