Zinc is one of the essential nutrients. Our body cannot produce it on its own and we are therefore dependent on its intake from the diet or from supplements. Zinc supplementation has become popular as an effective treatment against viruses.
Article at a glanc:
- Zinc and its function in the human body
- Zinc as a first aid for incipient cold or infectious disease
- Zinc sources
Zinc and its function in the human body
Zinc is the second most abundant trace element in our body (after iron), and is crucial for the healthy development and functioning of immune cells. Zinc has various functions In the body, in addition to maintaining a healthy immune system, zinc helps protect cells from oxidative stress, maintains healthy hair, nails and skin. Zinc is also involved in the process of cell division and is involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Zinc promotes fertility, healthy eyesight and wound healing.
Zinc as a first aid for incipient cold or infectious disease
Because zinc is important for the proper functioning of immune cells, a deficiency of zinc can lead to a weakened immune response in the body and therefore to a higher susceptibility to infectious diseases.
This is why zinc is also added to some drugs against colds. Several studies have already confirmed the effectiveness of zinc in fighting infectious diseases. For example, a review of seven studies showed that zinc supplementation can reduce the duration of colds by up to one-third . Some other research also suggests that zinc supplementation may reduce the risk of infection and promote immune response in the elderly. 
Experts recommend starting zinc supplementation as soon as possible after the first signs of a cold, ideally within 24 hours of the first symptoms.
One of the richest sources of zinc are oysters and other seafood. Meat, especially beef, is another good source of zinc. Pumpkin seeds also have a higher zinc content, but we recommend not to rely only on plant sources of zinc because they contain various antinutrients that may interact with zinc absorption. In the case of an incipient infectious disease, it would be beneficial to increase the intake of this nutrient in the form of a quality supplement.
It is estimated that approximately 2 billion people worldwide are deficient in zinc due to insufficient dietary intake. Some of the symptoms of zinc deficiency include increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, poor wound healing, loss of sense of smell and taste, and white spots on the nails.
If we want to support our immune system during the period of various infectious diseases and colds, it is certainly a good idea to supplement zinc. It is good to have zinc supplement in your home medicine cabinet and start taking it as soon as possible in case of a cold.
You can read more about the connection between zinc and the immune system in our article “Zinc and the immune system”.
 Hemilä H. Zinc lozenges and the common cold: a meta-analysis comparing zinc acetate and zinc gluconate, and the role of zinc dosage. JRSM Open. 2017 May 2;8(5):2054270417694291. doi: 10.1177/2054270417694291. PMID: 28515951; PMCID: PMC5418896.
 Haase H, Rink L. The immune system and the impact of zinc during aging. Immun Ageing. 2009 Jun 12;6:9. doi: 10.1186/1742-4933-6-9. PMID: 19523191; PMCID: PMC2702361