The Truth About Vitamin C and the Common Cold

In All Health Watch, Diet and Nutrition, Featured Article, General Health, Immune Health

To C or not to C?

For decades, doctors have debated if vitamin C lessens the impact of the common cold.

Research has been all over the place. Some studies show the vitamin does indeed help treat colds. Others say it has little, if any, effect.

A major new study set out to settle the question once and for all… Does vitamin C boost your immune system and help treat colds?

Scientists at the University of Helsinki in Finland analyzed two sets of data involving more than 1,400 people.1

In the first set, people who came down with a cold were randomly divided into three groups. One took 3 grams of vitamin C a day. Another took 6 grams. The third group took a placebo. The subjects took the vitamin C or placebo throughout the duration of their colds.

The cold sufferers who took 6 grams shortened their colds by 17% compared to the placebo group. Those given 3 grams shortened the duration by about 8%.2

Researchers also tested another dosing regimen. Cold sufferers were again divided into three groups. They took 4 or 8 grams of vitamin C or a placebo. But they did so only on the very first day they started feeling cold symptoms.

Used in this way, vitamin C actually worked slightly better. The 8-gram dose shortened colds by 19%. The 4-gram dose cut short the illness by about 9%.

Dr. Harri Hemilä is a professor of public health at the University of Helsinki. He was the lead author on the study.

“Given the consistent effect of vitamin C on the duration of colds,” he said, “it would be worthwhile for individual common cold patients to test whether therapeutic 8 g/day vitamin C is beneficial for them.”3

The study contains two important messages about vitamin C…

  1. It is effective against colds.
  1. It should be taken immediately after you notice symptoms.

“Self-dosing of vitamin C must be started as soon as possible after the onset of common cold symptoms to be most effective,” Dr. Hemilä said.

His work was published in the journal Nutrition.

How to Take Vitamin C to Shorten Your Cold

Why has the controversy over vitamin C’s effectiveness against colds lasted so long?  It’s all about the dosage and timing, said Dr. Hemilä.

The first controlled trials on vitamin C began all the way back in the 1940s. They used doses as low as 1 gram of vitamin C daily. That isn’t nearly enough to get therapeutic levels into your body.

And studies often didn’t give subjects vitamin C until days after colds had taken hold. By that time, vitamin C is less effective.

Vitamin C is usually sold by milligram count in capsules or tablets. One gram of vitamin C equals 1,000 mg.

Large doses of vitamin C can cause nausea, diarrhea, or stomach cramps. But Dr. Hemilä said that the people in his study had no side effects from the dosages he was using, which was up to 8,000 mg.4

But he says you should not exceed 15,000 mg a day. Long-term excessive doses of vitamin C can lead to kidney stones.5

Be sure to take the liposomal version of vitamin C. It is absorbed better by your body. If you have a sensitive stomach, get a supplement that is buffered. And take it with food.

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