Zinc and Vitamin C

To supplement or not during winter?

How can we prevent and treat winter colds? Can supplementing with zinc and vitamin-C be our winter sunscreen and aloe-vera?

We’ve all heard it; vitamin-C and zinc supplementation can help solve our winter colds, but is this true or just fake news?

There is some evidence to suggest vitamin-C supplements may provide very little benefit if commenced after symptom onset, but also that regular supplementation may decrease the duration and severity of colds. However, this may not always be effective or may not be effective for everyone, not to mention high dose antioxidant supplementation and its potential to impair training adaptations. Ensuring your regular diet incorporates plenty of vitamin-C rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, is important prior to trialling supplements.

Zinc plays several roles related to the immune system, and zinc deficiency can lead to decreased immune function. So it seems logical it should play a role when it comes to colds. To avoid risk of deficiency, good food sources of zinc such as meat, poultry and legumes should be included in the diet. Additional zinc supplementation is not capable of preventing colds. However, zinc lozenges taken at initial onset of symptoms may reduce the duration.

So, perhaps it’s low SPF sunscreen and a light mist of aloe-vera. Before considering supplements, our first defence should be ensuring adequate dietary vitamin-C and zinc and working with an Accredited Sports Dietitian to assist in making this decision.

By Linden Hall, Sports Dietitian and Track and Field Olympian. Currently balancing training and private practice work at South Yarra Spine & Sports Medicine.

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