But what is fact and what is fiction? On The Early Show, Health Contributor Dr. Emily Senay sheds some light on the subject.
A lot of people swear by throat lozenges and over-the-counter zinc products that claim to fight colds and the flu. But the jury is still very much still out on whether they really work.
Most experts say they are unlikely to be really useful except as a form of supplementing a diet that is already deficient.
No studies of zinc as a cold and flu fighter have shown conclusive benefits. And there have been no studies that have shown that extra zinc benefits children.
To try to answer these questions once and for all, a large clinical trial is underway in Cleveland to see if the lozenges really work.
Since a lot of people don't like the taste of zinc and it can cause a stomach upset, researchers are testing different formulations and delivery methods to see which is the best way to take it.
Role of zinc in daily diet
Zinc is an important part of a strong immune system. Some people might be at risk from zinc deficiency if they're not getting enough in their diet.
- Women should obtain at least 12 milligrams per day.
- Men should get 10 milligrams per day.
- And children older than 1 should also receive each day 10 milligrams, which is important for healthy development.
Foods such as meat, seafood, eggs and cereal are all good sources of zinc. If your family is on a vegetarian diet, or you don't like meat or fish, then take a zinc supplement.
Many cereals and baby foods are now enriched with zinc after nutritional surveys showed that many kids in this country do not get the recommended daily allowance.
But if you're taking more than 70 milligrams a day for an extended period of time, you can actually depress your immune system and cause neurological problems.
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