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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Zinc

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

[posted 10/15/1999]
Question: Is it true that zinc can stop the common cold if lozenges are used early enough? I have found that it seems to work most of the time for me. Also, is there any adverse effect on cholesterol levels? I heard from a friend that it raises cholesterol. Is this true?

Answer: There was some early data that this was true. Later studies cast some doubt. There doesn't appear to be much risk except the lozenges affect your taste pretty severely. I'm not aware of any interaction with cholesterol.

Zinc [posted 1/5/99]
Question:Is it safe to take zinc everyday?

Answer: Seems to be.

Question: What effect does zinc have on the prostate and on diabetes?

Answer: Controlled studies of zinc have never demonstrated any particular benefit. However, zinc is concentrated in the prostate and may be bacteriostatic. Consequently, many have used it for recurring infections. I always recommend it to patients since the risks are minimal. I have had about 5-10% of patients who clearly responded. I think that it works in occasional patients for reasons that are unclear. I think the studies include too many people to see the number who do improve. It is only useful for recurring infections, and not hypertrophy (increasing size) or prostate cancer. If you have recurring infections I'd try it for 3-5 months. Be aware that there may be no difference in the number or severity of infections. Zinc is used in many insulin preparations but has no effect on diabetes mellitus.

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