Can Vitamin C Prevent Colds
The U.S. cold and flu season spans from November to March and up to 20% of America’s population catches influenza. That can be as much as 60 million people. Many people get more than one cold during this time period.
Vitamin C has been touted as a natural cure for the common cold since the 1970s with Linus Pauling’s best selling book, Vitamin C and the Common Cold hit bookstores. The main claim was that taking 1 gram (1000 mg) of vitamin C daily would reduce the chance of getting a cold by 45% for most people. I also recommended that if cold symptoms do start, you should take 500 or 1000 mg every hour for several hours (or 4-10 grams daily if the symptoms persist).
But books come out all of the time about natural remedies and cures, so what made this one so successful. Well, Pauling’s reputation was a good start. As a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, many people took his theory as gospel.
So what is Vitamin C?
The generic definition is that Vitamin C is an antioxidant that the body uses to keep you strong and healthy. Vitamin C is used in the maintenance of bones, muscle, and blood vessels and also assists in the formation of collagen and helps the body absorb iron.
Vitamin C can be found naturally in vegetables and fruits, especially oranges and other citrus fruits. This key vitamin is also available as a natural dietary supplement in the form of vitamin C pills and vitamin C chewable tablets.
There is still MUCH debate as to whether Vitamin C can actually help prevent colds.
In a July 2007 study looking at clinical research covering some 60 years, researchers found that, when taken after a cold starts, vitamin C supplements do not make a cold shorter or less severe. When taken daily, vitamin C very slightly shorted cold duration (by 8% in adults and by 14% in children).
But researchers found the most effect on people who were in extreme condition, such as marathon runners. In this group, taking vitamin C cut their risk of catching a cold in half.
OK, we’ll break it down into real numbers.
The average adult that has a cold for 12 days a year would still suffer for 11 days a year if that person took a high dose of vitamin C every day during that year.For the average child who will have a cold about 28 days a year would still have a cold about 24 days a year if they took a daily high dose of vitamin C.When vitamin C was tested for treatment of colds in seven separate studies, vitamin C was no more effective than placebo at shortening the duration of cold symptoms.
Is Vitamin C Safe?
Further debate exists regarding the recommended doses that Linus Pauling recommended. Pauling himself reportedly took 12,000 mg daily and raised it to 40,000 mg when symptoms of a cold appeared!
In general, vitamin C is safe to take when ingested through food sources such as fruits and vegetables. For most people, taking vitamin C supplements in the recommended amounts is also safe. Higher doses of vitamin C (greater than 2,000 milligrams per day for adults) may cause kidney stones, nausea, and chronic diarrhea.
If you’re unsure about taking vitamin C for colds, talk to your health care provider. Your doctor can answer any questions about vitamin C and colds and about any other dietary supplement that you are taking.