The Common Cold Remedies Vitamin C

For decades, many people have operated under the assumption that taking Vitamin C is key to preventing and treating the common cold. In fact, for some, taking Vitamin C is the first thing they do once they start sniffling, sneezing and experiencing other symptoms associated with having a cold.

While many still believe in the healing properties of Vitamin C, a number of studies performed throughout the 20th century reveal conflicting data about the true effectiveness of this vitamin on the cold.

Here is a look at a few studies and associated conclusions on the effects of Vitamin C on a cold, as well as the immune system in general.

Study 1: A Compilation of Vitamin C Studies

In 2005, researchers analyzed information and conclusions from about 55 studies based on the effects of ingesting at least 200mg of Vitamin C per day. By compiling this data, they hoped to conclude if Vitamin C is effective in warding off and/or treating a cold.

Here are the results of this study, one of the most comprehensive done on the topic:

  • Taking Vitamin C doesn’t ensure that you won’t catch colds.
  • Taking Vitamin C once you are sick with the cold isn’t likely to reduce the duration of the illness, unless patients take 8,000 mg of Vitamin C on the first day they start experiencing symptoms.
  • Those regularly exposed to cold climates and who are also trained for moderate to heavy physical exertion were up to 50 percent less likely to come down with a cold when taking Vitamin C daily.
  • Those who take Vitamin C before getting sick, especially if the patients are children, generally won’t suffer from the common cold as long as those who don’t regularly take Vitamin C.

Overall, this study concludes that taking daily doses of Vitamin C is key to limiting the duration of the common cold, rather than preventing it altogether.

However, because this study focused on compiling data from studies primarily conducted on healthy children and athletes, it fails to shed light on the effects of vitamin C on those with more sedentary lifestyles, as well as those who have less than optimum health (i.e. anyone suffering from a chronic condition, such as diabetes).

Health Benefits of Vitamin C

While the jury is still out on the precise degree to which Vitamin C is effective for the general population, this vitamin is, nonetheless, still plays an important role in keeping us healthy. Vitamin C:

  • boosts the immune system
  • decreases histamine production (Our bodies produce histamines in response to allergic reactions. Histamines cause the symptoms of allergies, such as itchiness and sneezing.)
  • helps the body absorb iron efficiently
  • increases the body’s ability to metabolize folic acid and tryptophan
  • stimulates the thyroid to aid hormone production.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C, as set forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is about 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women.

Study 2: Vitamin C and the Immune System

Another recent study performed at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center examined the effects of Vitamin C on the immune system. This study found that subjects who took as little as 1 gram of Vitamin C per day (for 2 weeks) showed a significant increase in cytokines, disease-fighting proteins produced by the immune system’s white blood cells.

In opposition to the first study mentioned, this research suggests that taking smaller amounts of Vitamin C for shorter periods of time can boost the immune system’s strength, making it ready to combat the common cold.

Although, more research in this area clearly needs to be done before we fully understand the way in which Vitamin C is effective in treating and/or preventing the common cold, taking Vitamin C on a daily basis does have proven health benefits. As a result, people of all ages should consider incorporating a Vitamin C supplement into their daily vitamin regimen.

Vitamin C Overdoses

While Vitamin C does have proven health benefits, like nearly any other substance, Vitamin C can be harmful to our health when taken in excess. Some of the effects of Vitamin C overdoses include:

  • cramps
  • diarrhea
  • gas
  • kidney stones
  • nausea.

To avoid a Vitamin C overdose, talk to your doctor about how much Vitamin C to incorporate into your diet and supplement routine.

Resources

Hatch, Cory (June 28, 2005). Vitamin C and Colds. Retrieved October 29, 2007 from the US News Web site: http://health.usnews.com/usnews/health/briefs/alternativemedicine/hb050628a.htm.

Hitt, Emma, PhD (2003). Vitamin C May Fight Colds After All. Retrieved October 29, 2007 from the WebMD Web site: http://www.webmd.com/content/article/62/71548.htm.

Vitamin C Supplementation (n.d.). Vitamin C: Requirements, Health Benefits, Overdose and Deficiency Symptoms. Retrieved October 29, 2007 from the Vitamin C Supplementation Web site: http://www.acu-cell.com/vitc.html.