The airborne dietary supplement is that, a supplement that was born in the 1990s by a elementary school teacher known as Victoria Knight-McDowell.
In 1997, Trader-Joe's picked up 300 cases of the product and then soon, Walmart and Rite-Aid started to carry the airborne dietary supplement in 1999 as well.
The product contains Vitamins A, C, E and B along with the main ingredient which is Zinc. Other ingredients include managanese, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Even some herbals are included per tablet: echinacea, ginger and forsythia.
The airborne dietary supplement has a cartoonish designer which resembles the environmental surrounding an elementary school. The cartoonist responsible for this look is Llyod Dangle that created the airborne dietary supplement brand and its packaging. The package is a reminder of the founder, a school teacher.
It is also resembling school because it is common for students to get a cold after their summer break. This occurs during the Fall semester. Students travel during the summer and meet different people during the summer and pick up unique viruses and bacteria that they then share during the Fall.
The idea is that you can take the airborne dietary supplement prophylactically (preventively) or within 24 hours of the first sign of a cold. That's when it is supposed to work, but does it really work?
One study published in 1997 (around the time the company started) by the Journal of Nutrition Review found that patients receiving zinc-containing lozenge every 2 hours for the duration of their cold experienced 100% resolution of their cold symptoms in 4.4 days. The placebo group receiving a sugar pill had 100% resolution of their cold symptoms in 7.6 days. The difference between these two periods is 3.2 days, a significant reduction in cold duration.
Lozenges every 2 hours would be a total of 8 lozenges per day and each lozenge contained 13.3 mg of zinc per lozenge. That would be a total of 106.4 mg of zinc daily duration the duration of the cold. A significantly greater portion of the 100 test subjects reported a sore throat compared to the zinc test group. Subjects receiving zinc instead of placebo reported significantly more nausea and a bad-taste reactions to the zinc. The bad-taste reaction can be overcome with the use of a zinc tablet instead of the lozenges, the nausea associated with zinc was also found in other studies I reviewed.
Another study published in 1984 of the Journal Of Antimicrobial Agents Chemotherapy found that after 7 days with one 23-mg zinc lozenge in the mouth every 2 wakeful hours after an initial double dose made 86% of the zinc treated subjects asymptomatic compared to only 46% of subjects receiving placebo.
A Cochrane Database Systematic Review done on Jun 2013, assessed zinc efficacy via 16 therapeutic trials and two preventive trials. It was found that zinc reduced the duration of cold by one day but not the severity of the common cold symptoms.
It was also found that those that were symptomatic after 7 days was significantly smaller in the treatment group using zinc instead of placebo.
Bad taste in the mouth and nausea were reported from the group on zinc lozenges. It was found that zinc was effective at doses above 75 mg per day for the reduction in duration of a cold. For those considering its use for this purpose, "zinc would be best to use it at this dose (75mg) throughout the cold."
In the fourth study I reviewed, it was found that zinc was not effective in reducing the duration of a cold if less than 75 mg were used per day. In three trials zinc acetate above 75mg per day reduced, pooled results indicated a 42% reduction in the duration of colds. In five trials using zinc salts other than acetate in daily doses above 75mg, the pooled result indicated a 20% reduction in the duration of colds.
In my opinion the evidence of zinc and only zinc by itself, specifically zinc acetate for the duration of the cold, started within 24 hours of the onset of a cold, in a dose above 75mg a day, sounds effective for the reduction in duration of a cold; however, airborne sells zinc in effervescent tabs, 8 mg per tab. It says the maximum amount of tablets to take per day is 3 tablets which is 24 mg of zinc per day, far lower than the necessary 75 mg per day found to be effective.
Also, 3 tablets a day, provides 5001% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, 300% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E, 495% the recommended amount of riboflavin and 450% the recommended amount of manganese. It was found that vitamin C, in large doses, above 1000mg per day (note: each tablet of airborne contains 1000mg of vitamin C) leads to kidney stone formation especially in people that have already had kidney stones in their past.
That is not something I'm willing to mess around with. I don't see any need to take the vitamin C, E, riboflavin, manganese and the herbal preparations that go along with airborne; however, people will swear by the effectiveness of the airborne dietary supplement. Personally, I recommend getting zinc from here, and using a pill and a half a day during the duration of your cold. That should cut the cold's duration by at least 1 day I think.
My anesthesiologist uncle in law as a kid recommended this to me (and it wasn't the acetate form) and it worked a miracle. I don't think that the effectiveness of zinc for colds is new modern medicine considering he practiced medicine throughout the 50's, 60's and 70's and knew about the effectiveness of zinc for the common cold. Remember, it is important to take it within 24 hours of the onset of the cold if you want the benefit but I personally wouldn't stop myself from taking it if I missed taking it within 24 hrs of cold symptoms. It is not recommended that you take zinc prophylactically or preventively until further research confirms effectiveness of this.
1. Eby GA, Davis DR, Halcomb WW. Reduction in duration of common colds by zinc gluconate lozenges in a double-blind study. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1984;25(1):20-4.
2. No Author. Zinc lozenges reduce the duration of cold symptoms. Nutr Rev. 1997;55(3):82-5.
3. Hemila H. Zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of colds: a systematic review. Open Respir Med J. 2011;5:51-8.
4. Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013.