Background: A number of controlled trials have examined the effect of zinc lozenges on the common cold but the findings have diverged. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the total daily dose of zinc might explain part of the variation in the results.
Methods: The Medline, Scopus and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials data bases were searched for placebocontrolled trials examining the effect of zinc lozenges on common cold duration. Two methods were used for analysis: the P-values of the trials were combined by using the Fisher method and the results of the trials were pooled by using the inverse-variance method. Both approaches were used for all the identified trials and separately for the low zinc dose and the high zinc dose trials.
Results: Thirteen placebo-controlled comparisons have examined the therapeutic effect of zinc lozenges on common cold episodes of natural origin. Five of the trials used a total daily zinc dose of less than 75 mg and uniformly found no effect. Three trials used zinc acetate in daily doses of over 75 mg, the pooled result indicating a 42% reduction in the duration of colds (95% CI: 35% to 48%). Five trials used zinc salts other than acetate in daily doses of over 75 mg, the pooled result indicating a 20% reduction in the duration of colds (95% CI: 12% to 28%).
Conclusions: This study shows strong evidence that the zinc lozenge effect on common cold duration is heterogeneous so that benefit is observed with high doses of zinc but not with low doses. The effects of zinc lozenges should be further studied to determine the optimal lozenge compositions and treatment strategies.
Keywords: Meta-analysis; randomized controlled trials; respiratory infections; zinc..