The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced, Intranasal Zinc Product Linked to Loss of Sense of Smell. The advisement is for consumers to stop using three products marketed over-the-counter as cold remedies because they are associated with the loss of sense of smell (anosmia). Anosmia may be long-lasting or permanent. The three products are: Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Ziam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs, and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size (a discontinued product).
The FDA said that many of the 130 reports occurred with the very first use of the product. Loss of sense of smell is obviously dangerous, but it also affects the quality of life. Recent studies have shown food tastes are affected by the sense of smell. Visit the Sense of Smell Institute's website for other information on the sense of smell.
From the National Institute of Health, we learn that zinc is an essential mineral found in some foods and added to others. It is also present in over-the-counter drugs sold as cold remedies. The element is important in cellular metabolism and directly responsible for the production of over 100 enzymes. It is also necessary for wound healing and growth. Unlike some minerals, zinc cannot be stored by the human body and thus required daily.
The NIH recommends 11 mg and 8 mg daily for male and female (respectively) adults over the age of 19. Oysters contain more zinc than other foods, but red meat and poultry provide most zinc in the American diet. The NIH website adds, "The effect of zinc treatment on the severity or duration of cold symptoms is controversial. Researchers have hypothesized that zinc directly inhibits rhinovirus binding and replication in the nasal mucosa and suppresses inflammation. However, no data are available to support this hypothesis."
Applicable to the recent FDA advisory the NIH website adds, "As previously noted, the safety of intranasal zinc has been called into question due to several reports of anosmia (permanent loss of smell) from the use of zinc-containing nasal gels or sprays. These safety concerns do not apply to cold lozenges containing zinc." (I had been wondering about the latter.)