Can yogurt help fight a head cold? Probably not

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It’s December, and the weather outside is filthy. If you haven’t already come down with a head cold, you probably will soon. Runny nose, sore throat, sinus pressure, bad sleep—it’s a week of misery. Conventional wisdom says to rest and drink herbal tea and take cold medicine that never seems to have any effect. At the end of the day, all you can do it let it run its course.

But, in case you want to get experimental, researchers with ties to the dairy industry—again, with ties to the diary industry—have come out with a new remedy: yogurt.

“When it comes to yogurt specifically, I’d say there’s not a lot of research that we can point to that indicates yogurt reduces symptoms of a cold,” Mickey Rubin, vice president of nutrition research for the National Dairy Council, told CNN, adding, “There are some things [in yogurt] we can point to that, in theory, would be beneficial.”

One such thing is probiotics, which are a but of a fad these days. Nevertheless, they’re known to prop up the immune system, and a stronger immune system equals less frequent and less severe colds. Probiotics are found in yogurt, but only certain types, and those types are not necessarily the ones that bolster your immune system and, by extension, help fend off colds. Even Rubin of the National Dairy Council acknowledges this:

“We know yogurt is a nutritious food choice and we know probiotics are beneficial to health, so including them in an overall healthy eating plan makes sense, but recommending them specifically for the common cold would be premature.”

Zinc is also good for the immune system, and is also found in yogurt. But—and this story seems full of buts—in order for zinc to have any impact on the severity or duration of a cold, you reportedly need at least 75 milligrams of it. A serving of yogurt contains a total of 2 milligrams. Unless you’re prepared to slam 40 cups of yogurt, you can forget about the zinc dimension.

Curiously, CNN goes on to cite the fact that yogurt, like every other food, has carbohydrates, which give your body energy—and this in turn may help put a premature end to your cold. So then can every other type of food, going by that logic.

The only real takeaway here, and I’m quoting from CNN now, is that “there’s no good reason not to choose yogurt when you have the sniffles or difficulty swallowing.”

Not the strongest of cases, but make of it what you will.