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Vitamin C and Colds – Yes or No?

Wednesday 10 August, 2016.

Vit C and colds – the debate continues. Is Vit C one of the natural remedies for colds or is it a myth? Is Vit C an effective common cold treatment?

Despite the popular belief that vitamin C can cure the common cold, the scientific evidence for this is conflicting.

The generally accepted idea is that Vit C really can reduce the length and symptoms of a cold. This is because it enhances the immune system, including white blood cell production and antibody response, and can act as a natural decongestant.

According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 30 clinical trials including over 10,000 participants tested the effects of taking daily vitamin C for cold prevention. Overall, no significant reduction in the risk of developing colds was observed.

Although many people do combine Vit C and colds, a Finnish review of 21 scientific studies of Vit C showed that even high doses have no cold-preventative value. But this study did show that at doses of 1,000 milligrams a day, the vitamin did consistently reduce the severity of cold symptoms.

It has been shown though that people exposed to periods of high stress, like marathon runners, could reduce their risk of catching colds by half if they took daily doses of Vit C.

The current recommended daily allowance of Vit C is 60mg, and Catherine Collins, a registered dietician with the British Dietetic Association, says an optimum amount would be 200mg every day.

But, according to Ms. Collins, most of us can easily obtain this amount through eating five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

So what about all the Vit C studies that have shown no benefit of Vit C and colds?

Perhaps they gave too little Vit C for too short a time.

The studies that showed benefits involved at least 1,000 milligrams a day from the first tickle in the throat until the cold had cleared completely.

Basically, there is a threshold below which Vit C shows no benefit, but if you take more than a gram a day, it seems to work.

On the other hand, eating too much Vit C means it cannot be absorbed and it just passes right through in the urine.

What about people who swear that Vit C is a fail-proof natural remedy for colds?

Perhaps they haven’t kept proper note of their experience. Or maybe they are experiencing a placebo effect.

If you really believe that Vit C really helps prevent your colds, ignore the studies that show no benefits and keep taking it. In doses of a few hundred grams a day, Vit C is safe for the vast majority of people. (If you have kidney disease, consult your physician before deciding on Vit C supplements.)

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