Does vitamin C help with colds? We know that Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid as it is also known, is essential for the proper functioning of our immune system. So it makes sense that many of us would take this supplement when we’re feeling under the weather, or as a preventative method when the weather gets colder. But is there any evidence that it actually works?
The theory that vitamin C protects us from seasonal colds is relatively new, popularized by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling in the early 1970s. At the same time, he had no solid evidence to support his claim. In the following decades, many scientists attempted to determine the exact effect of vitamin C on colds, but their findings were often disappointing. What’s more, recent studies have produced mixed results. So the answer to the question “Does vitamin C help with colds?” It may not be obvious.
Should you take vitamin C? Here, we take a look at the latest research to help you decide whether or not it’s worth what you’re paying. However, it is best to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C plays many important roles in our bodies, and is necessary for the formation of many different tissues.
“Vitamin C is a vitamin that is essential for collagen production in the skin,” says Dr. Ioannis Liakas, MD and medical director at Vie Aesthetics.
(Opens in a new tab). Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals, and it keeps the skin and various tissues in our bodies solid and flexible at the same time. In general, vitamin C deficiency is associated with a weakened immune system and an increased risk of infection.” Ascorbic acid also helps with hormone production, energy metabolism, neutralization of free radicals, and iron absorption in the digestive system.
Dr Ioannis Liakas has decades of experience as an NHS consultant internal medicine and geriatrician in the UK, is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP), Honorary Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary Medical College, and a member of the British College of Aesthetic Medicine.
Does vitamin C have any effect on colds?
When it comes to the effect of vitamin C on colds, studies tend to have mixed results. According to a review in Frontiers in Immunology
(Opens in a new tab) In the journal, there are currently no clinical recommendations that support the use of high-dose vitamin C supplementation to reduce the risk of respiratory tract infection in the general population. However, this practice may be recommended for certain groups (such as athletes or the military) and for individuals who show signs of vitamin C deficiency.
Vitamin C supplements may also be recommended for people at risk of severe infections (such as obese, diabetics, or the elderly), as they may help reduce inflammation.
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(Image source: Getty Images)
“Getting enough ascorbic acid during an injury is a great idea,” says Dr. Liakas. However, this does not mean that vitamin C can completely and effectively prevent you from catching a cold during the winter months. There is not enough evidence to prove that vitamin C is an effective preventative treatment for the common cold. Instead, we know that severe deficiency can make it difficult for our bodies to fight infection. This means that over time, not getting enough vitamin C may increase your risk of disease.”
At the same time scholars of life
(Opens in a new tab) The journal argues that most current recommendations are based on highly biased studies from the late 1970s. They claim that articles from JAMA and the American Journal of Medicine rejected the evidence that vitamin C is effective against the common cold, and that their negative attitude helped shape this “biased” discourse for years to come.
So what are the latest scientific advances regarding vitamin C and the common cold — and can they provide us with definitive answers?
Does vitamin C help prevent colds?
according to nutrients
(Opens in a new tab) In the journal, Vitamin C is essential for maintaining the integrity of epithelial barriers – all surfaces that prevent any external pollutants from entering our bodies. Skin and gut walls are good examples of epithelial barriers.
Vitamin C also helps protect our skin from pathogens by strengthening its structure and enhancing its ability to “scavenge” free radicals, and boosts our immune system’s ability to detect and destroy microbes before they begin to pose a threat to our health. So in theory, vitamin C should protect us from these minor respiratory infections.
But according to a major Cochrane systematic review
(Opens in a new tab)There is no evidence that vitamin C supplementation reduces the incidence of colds in the general population. However, it may be beneficial for people who are exposed to short periods of intense physical exercise. Intense exercise greatly increases oxidative stress, and thus may weaken epithelial barriers and increase the chance of infection.
(Image source: Getty Images)
Does vitamin C help in the treatment of colds?
Nutrients (Opens in a new tab) Journal, Vitamin C helps increase the production and spread of B and T lymphocytes. B lymphocytes make antibodies — proteins that bind to bacteria and viruses. This process helps our immune system to recognize them as foreign objects. The role of T lymphocytes is to destroy these unwanted visitors. Again, in theory, vitamin C should help us shorten the duration and relieve cold symptoms.
According to a meta-analysis published in
Biomed Research International (Opens in a new tab) Journal, Vitamin C can actually help shorten the duration of colds. Time to symptom improvement and time to overall recovery were better with vitamin C supplementation than with antiviral treatment alone. Other meta-analysis results published in Biomed Research International (Opens in a new tab) The journal notes that taking additional therapeutic doses at the onset of a cold may also help shorten the duration of a cold, as well as relieve symptoms such as chest pain, fever, and chills.
How much vitamin C do you need to stay healthy?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C depends on several factors, including age and gender. according to
National Institutes of Health (Opens in a new tab)Women should aim for 75 mg of vitamin C per day, while men need 90 mg. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should increase their intake. Depending on their age, they may need between 80 mg to 120 mg per day. Individuals who smoke also need 35 mg more per day than non-smokers.
Vitamin C is water soluble, which means it is not stored by the body and is filtered out in the urine. However, high doses of vitamin C may cause unwanted side effects. The upper limit is set at 2 grams of this nutrient per day.
Check out these nine sources of vitamin C to boost your immune health.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice.