- With Mayo Clinic internist
Brent A. Bauer, M.D.read biographyclose window
Brent A. Bauer, M.D.Brent A. Bauer, M.D.
Brent Bauer, M.D., is board certified in internal medicine. He is a consultant in the Department of Internal Medicine and director of the Department of Internal Medicine's Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dr. Bauer, a native of Madison, Wis., is also a professor of medicine at Mayo Medical School and a graduate of Mayo Medical School.
He serves on the editorial board of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter and is medical editor for EmbodyHealth Newsletter. He has been on staff at Mayo Clinic since 1992, first practicing at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., before joining Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., in 1996.
Dr. Bauer's principal research focus is the scientific evaluation of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies that patients and consumers are using with increasing frequency. He has authored several book chapters and papers on this topic, and is the medical editor of the "Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine." Dr. Bauer also spearheaded collaboration between Mayo Clinic and Gaiam in the creation of a series of 10 DVDs (Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions). These DVDs address common health problems (for example, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure) with integrative medicine approaches that empower people to take charge of their health. His work is at the forefront of the emerging field of integrative medicine which combines the best of conventional medicine with the best of evidence-based complementary therapies.
Dr. Bauer has served on the NIH-NCCAM study section and is currently collaborating on over 20 studies being conducted at Mayo Clinic evaluating CAM therapies ranging from acupuncture to valerian. He is also a member of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society; the American Federation for Medical Research; the North Central Cancer Treatment Group and other professional organizations.
- Cold or allergy: Which is it?
- Plugged ears: What is the remedy?
Lifestyle and home remedies (7)
- Honey: An effective cough remedy?
- Neti pot: Can it clear your nose?
- Neti pot solution: Can I make my own?
- see all in Lifestyle and home remedies
Alternative medicine (3)
- Zinc for colds: The final word?
- Echinacea: Is it effective for the common cold?
- Do the benefits of vitamin C include improved mood?
- Flu germs: How long can they live outside the body?
Zinc for colds: The final word?
Will taking zinc for colds make my colds go away faster?
from Brent A. Bauer, M.D.
There's been a lot of talk about taking zinc for colds ever since a 1984 study showed that zinc supplements kept people from getting as sick. Since then, research has turned up mixed results about zinc and colds.
Recently an analysis of several studies showed that zinc lozenges or syrup reduced the length of a cold by one day. It also showed that taking zinc regularly might reduce the number of colds each year, the number of missed school days and the amount of antibiotics required in otherwise healthy children.
Most colds are caused by a type of virus called rhinovirus, which thrives and multiplies in the nasal passages and throat (upper respiratory system). Zinc may work by preventing the rhinovirus from multiplying. It may also stop the rhinovirus from lodging in the mucous membranes of the throat and nose. Zinc may be more effective when taken in lozenge or syrup form, which allows the substance to stay in the throat and come in contact with the rhinovirus.
But the recent analysis stopped short of recommending zinc. None of the studies analyzed had enough participants to meet a high standard of proof. Also, the studies used different zinc dosages and preparations (lozenges or syrup) for different lengths of time. As a result, it's not clear what the effective dose and treatment schedule would be.
Zinc — especially in lozenge form — also has side effects, including nausea or a bad taste in the mouth. Many people who used zinc nasal sprays suffered permanent loss of smell. Large amounts of zinc may be toxic.
For now, the safest course is to talk to your doctor before considering the use of zinc to prevent or reduce the length of colds.Next question
Echinacea: Is it effective for the common cold?
- Eby GA, et al. Reduction in duration of common colds by zinc gluconate lozenges in a double-blind study. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 1984;25:20.
- Singh M, et al. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2011:CD001364.
- Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc. Office of Dietary Supplements. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional. Accessed May 23, 2011.