Zinc has long been the subject of debate when it comes to the common cold: Can the mineral really shorten the duration of your suffering? Yes, according to a new review of research on the topic. When zinc lozenges, tablets, or syrups are taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms, colds can be cut by an average of a day or more and symptoms can be made less severe, the New York Times reports. How? Researchers aren't certain, but zinc could have antiviral properties.
Some of the studies reviewed showed even better results from zinc, like one that found zinc lozenges cut cold duration by three days—and the mineral was also found to help prevent colds when used regularly. But don't rush to the store just yet: Study authors don't make any recommendations about products to buy or how much to take, and they warn that many over-the-counter products may include flavors, binders, or formulations of zinc that make them less effective. (Click to read about one zinc-based remedy the FDA has warned against.)