First off I would say I deleted some comments that I didn’t mean to, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. If your comment got deleted please understand that it is a casualty of the spam wars and was by no means intentionally deleted, I think I even deleted my own response to a comment. I am getting much better at “taking out the garbage” at this point without requiring any sort of moderation or sign-up, so if you have anything to say please say it, I may not even delete it Okay so where were we, zinc and the common cold …
Yes, as was pointed out in parts I and II zinc in a reasonable formulation such as zinc acetate, has been documented in the peer reviewed medical literature, if taken at levels of 75 milligrams per day or greater to shorten the duration of the common cold in a statistically significant manner. While this finding has been repeated in some half dozen studies, with no negative studies at this dose, far more than might be required for approval of a new drug through FDA, it is not a tremendously dramatic effect, vitamin D while less documented may have even greater effect. One might expect with zinc intake at this dose that the duration of one’s cold would be shortened by about one third.
I am a bit at a loss at this point how to proceed. We might discuss what one might expect to see if a new molecular entity, let’s call it Virex(TM) could cut 1/3 off the common cold … or we could discuss the side effects of a little extra zinc.
Well, let’s start in my mind how this might play out if zinc was a highly profitable new prescription drug. Cue the advertisement at the football game with some fat slob and his family, the husband sneezes and the wife leans over and asks “What’s wrong honey?” “It’s this darn cold , it just won’t go away … sneeze.” Son says, “Daddy, look they scored a touch down”. Fat slob glances up, “I should have taken Virex(Tm)” cue trombones, whah, whah, whah. Cue fast talker: (Virex(TM) may cause liver inflammation, rare side effects include convulsion, catatonic depression and nose bleeds, in some studies Virex(TM) caused temporary blindness and hair loss, if either condition persists consult your physician. Do not use Virex (Tm) when driving, changing light bulbs, or breathing more than 5 times per minute. Ask your doctor about clinically proven Virex(Tm)). Alight it sounds silly but things are not much better regarding the evidence for many prescription drugs.
So now, especially as zinc is a non-patentable, cheap as dirt drug, we need to talk about the numerous side effects. Oh wait this is a micronutrient, the majority of “side effects” at medicinal doses are actually ancillary benefits. Without making this a ten part series, I would just note that there are recently discovered portions of numerous enzymes, at least one hundred as we mentioned earlier, that contain “zinc finger motifs” which use zinc to function optimally.
Much of this is relatively new research. It could have turned out that zinc, like lead, aluminum or other elements was toxic, but we know now, though it is not discussed much, that zinc is a necessary and beneficial micronutrient in a variety of instances. Still, the side effects. Zinc is widely discussed as unfortunately associated with decreased libido and impotence, oh wait … wait, hold everything, that would be the 10 billion+ dollar a year statin class of drugs which has that discussion ongoing. Talk about being able to sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Then again, “take our drug or you will drop dead” is a pretty good sales line.
Actually zinc is anecdotaly associated with increased libido. One might think of oysters (which contain 75 mg of bioavailable zinc on average) as a lovers meal as an example. Beyond anecdote though there is also some research to support this position. Effects of zinc supplementation on sexual behavior of male rats, published in 2009 concludes by noting, “Zinc therapy improves sexual competence of male rats; the effect is dose dependent.” There are numerous studies of the role of zinc on libido in hemodialysis patients as well.
I am not going to go into, in this series, all of the numerous potential medicinal uses of zinc, hopefully this will be part of future articles. Suffice it to say that along with improving immune function and libido, zinc has been found to be beneficial in prevention or treatment of a variety of cancers, prostate cancer being especially researched on this front. It also has been relatively recently documented to shorten the duration of and greatly decrease mortality from acute infectious diarrhea. This last finding being researched to the extent that the oh-so-avant-garde World Health Organization now even recommends that zinc be part of any diarrheal treatment regime, though to my knowledge that recommendation is yet to take wide effect. This last point may seem a bit dull to some readers unless they consider that some one million people die per year of acute diarrheal illness, the majority being children. Any cheap, effective therapy for this disease has an enormous impact on public health.
I have gotten far afield of zinc and the common cold. However, in the first part, I asked where is the excitement for zinc as an inexpensive medicinal and the subsequent research in, say viral indications other than the common cold? In the second part, where is the guidance from the medical community on how best to prescribe this drug? In this part I will ask two questions 1) why do harmless to beneficial ancillary treatments seem to often be viewed in an adversarial light by prescribing clinicians? If there is the evidence in the peer reviewed literature that various non-patentable treatments are relatively harmless and likely to be of benefit, why aren’t they, if not prescribed, at least promoted, along with their often more toxic and risky patentable cousins? And finally, while it would most likely be a topic for a blog site in and of itself, is there an easy way forward to harness business interests towards the use of less expensive, non-patentable therapies or are wholesale changes required? Would be curious to hear any and all thoughts on this.