David Keisler

David Keisler

The element zinc was discovered in 1746 by Andreas Marggraf but zinc ores were used to make brass thousands of years ago. Zinc has the atomic number 30 and therefore possesses 30 protons in its nucleus. Zinc is a micronutrient for many life forms and plays an important role in human health.

Zinc aids in immune system function and for that reason supplements are sometimes useful. Zinc also aids in wound healing. A deficiency of zinc may result in decreased appetite, hair loss, diarrhea and skin disorders as well as altered taste and smell.

Several trials have reported that taking zinc lozenges within the first 24 hours of developing cold symptoms may help to minimize symptoms and reduce the duration of the average cold by three to four days. The common cold is caused by one of several viruses to include rhino-, corona-, adeno- and influenza viruses.

In 2013, a study that reviewed 18 trials evolving 1,781 participants found that if zinc lozenges were taken early they helped to shorten the duration and lessen the intensity of a cold. One type of lozenge contains about 13 mg of zinc.

The daily recommendation for adults is to supplement with no more than 40 mg per day for long-term use. Larger doses on a long term basic could cause side effects and some health problems such as nausea, vomiting and even copper deficiency. Nasal spray with zinc has been shown to cause a decreased sense of smell.

You may have herd that in some instances zinc is used to aid in the treatment of the novel coronavirus. It seems that if zinc can enter the infected cell it can interfere with viral replication. That is a good thing. Also, hydroxychloroquin, an anti-malarial drug has been found to assist in zinc's ability to enter the viral cell. A substance which helps to transport an ion across a cell's membrane wall is known as an ionophore. Hydroxychloroquin is an example of this as it aids the transport of zinc across the viral cell wall membrane.

No supplement can prevent or cure a viral infection, but there does seem to be supportive evidence for using them with hopes of diminishing or minimizing the duration of the infection.

Zinc in the topical form has been used for treatment of diaper rash, minor burns and wound healing. The Unna boot is a gauze wrap impregnated with zinc that is helpful in treating venous leg ulcers.

A new study is presently being conducted in Melbourne Australia which involves treating COVID-19 with intravenous zinc. China is the world's leader in producing zinc from mines. American pennies contain 97.5% zinc and only 2.5% copper. Zinc is an interesting element which has several important applications for both health as well as industry.

David KeislerĀ is a gastroenterologist and internist in Aiken.