A report in 1984 on the success of zinc gluconate against common cold symptoms could not be confirmed in three subsequent studies, which are now known to have used formulations that inactivated zinc. A non-chelating formulation including glycine, which releases 93% of contained zinc into saliva, was tested in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial in 73 young adults. Efficacy was recorded in symptom diaries using a symptom severity rating. Patients' symptoms first appeared 1.34 days prior to entry to the study in both groups. Disappearance of symptoms occurred after an additional 4.9 days for zinc-treated patients versus 6.1 days for placebo-treated patients. A difference was noted in the efficacy of treatment if it was started 1 day after symptom onset: cold duration was an additional 4.3 days in zinc-treated patients compared with 9.2 days for placebo-treated patients. Cough, nasal drainage and congestion were the symptoms most affected, and only mild side-effects were noted.