Is vitamin C the super vitamin as we known for decades? As long as I can remember, almost everyone in my family and circle of friends suggested taking vitamin C to help with a cold and its symptoms.
With slightest sign of a cold, such as sneezing or a congested nose, a tablet of vitamin C was ready to be swallowed. The only thing I remember was its sour but tasty nature. I especially liked the dissolvable ones that produced a strange popping sound as it slid into the water.
Do we have any evidence supporting the usage of vitamin C supplements for the treatment or prevention of colds? Does vitamin C help a cold? Or, are we flushing our money down the drain?
Research has shown that the cause of most upper airway infections is a viral organism such as the rhinovirus (50-80% of the time). Additional 200 viruses could cause an upper airway infections.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid has antioxidant properties and is a water soluble vitamin. For many years, its use has been widely popular for prevention of disease.
Don’t forget to read this article about Flu vaccines too.
Vitamin C benefits
This vitamin builds collagens in the body, which are important basic materials for building tendons, muscles and ligaments. Vitamin C also plays an important role in producing so-called neurotransmitters, known to assist brain function, transporting fat into the mitochondria (the so-called energy factories of the body) and facilitating the cholesterol/bile acid metabolism.
Many people still might know about scurvy, one of the most famous and deadly diseases caused by severe vitamin C deficiency. People knew the treatment for scurvy (eating citrus fruits) long before knowing the cause of it. There are almost no cases of scurvy around the world especially in developed countries.
A small intake of 10 mg of vitamin C can prevent scurvy.
Research about Vitamin C
A Cochrane systemic review examined 30 prevention trials (patients with no cold symptoms) including almost 11,350 individuals.
They found a very minimal decrease in the number of colds but not in the severity of disease for adults and children after taking up to 2g of vitamin C. In these trials, the duration of cold symptoms were 8% lower in adults and, 18% in children.
The above reviews also examined 7 treatment trials (patients who had already cold symptoms) with almost 3300 participants. None of the above studies except one, have shown any significant improvement of colds with the consumption of vitamin C.
Remarkably, these reviewers identified a subgroup of the population that was exposed to severe stress such as cold and intense physical activity (marathon runners, skiers and soldiers) that could have their incidence of colds reduced in half with doses of vitamin C ranging from 250 mg/day to 1 g/day.
Top food sources of vitamin C
Fruits and vegetables such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit, red and green hot chili peppers, dark leafy greens, strawberries, papayas and many others can provide you with a good amount of vitamin C and also beneficial vitamins, fiber and minerals.
Let’s summarize the above information in clear and concise language.
Does Vitamin C Help a Cold?
If you don’t have any cold symptoms and would like to prevent the possibility of getting one, then, taking up to 1 g of vitamin C daily may help to reduce the duration of symptoms. But it will not reduce the severity or the rate of the infection.
If you are a person who is under intense physical stress then taking up to 1g of vitamin C daily will help you to reduce your chances of getting a cold by 50% (not bad).
If you have already an infection, then, taking vitamin C will not help you in a major way. So, it’s better to save your money for something better.
Clearly, you don’t have to rely only on supplements to achieve your goal of taking 1g of vitamin C per day.
We can now return to our family and friends and ask them to adjust their recommendation concerning the timing of their vitamin C intake. We should have a good balanced diet all of the time and not only when we are sick.
So now it’s time to get some oranges.
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