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Infectious Disease, Nutrition

Does vitamin C work for the common cold?

Since I spend quite a bit of time traveling and can’t afford to get many colds, the slightest tickle in my throat usually sends me bounding into the kitchen in search of a bolus of vitamin C. There I tear into a small blue packet containing a pastel powder, dump it into a glass of water, and gulp down the resulting fizzy elixir. Thinking rationally, I recognize the vitamin C is unlikely to help much – and yet I still practice this ritual every time I feel unwell.

Now I’ve come across an excellent analysis of whether or not vitamin C works for the common cold on Clinical Correlations and it offers another reminder that I’m probably wasting my money. Carolyn Bevan, MD, writes:

…at the end of the day, is there any benefit to taking a daily vitamin C supplement, or for chugging down that fizzy shot of mega-dose vitamin C when you feel a cold coming on? If you are a marathon runner, or if you are planning a winter adventure in the arctic tundra, you should certainly consider a daily dose of vitamin C. For the rest of us, it doesn’t seem to be worth the hassle and expense of adding one more pill to our daily routine.

How Bevan gets to that conclusion is definitely worth reading – and her analysis is even peer reviewed. Thanks to her effort, at least until I replace marathon flights with marathon runs, it seems that I can probably skip the vitamin C.

One Response to “ Does vitamin C work for the common cold? ”

  1. Owen Fonorow Says:

    While I am sure the meta analysis is flawless, I still trust the prior review by Linus Pauling as published in his book HOW TO LIVE LONGER AND FEEL BETTER (1986). The good effects are entirely dependent on dosage as this study would indicate:

    RESULTS: Overall, reported flu and cold symptoms in the test group decreased 85% compared with the control group after the administration of megadose Vitamin C. CONCLUSION: Vitamin C in megadoses administered before or after the appearance of cold and flu symptoms relieved and prevented the symptoms in the test population compared with the control group.

    Anyone may safely try our protocol here and stop a cold in its tracks during the initial states. (This experiment seems to cast down on Dr. Hemila’s analysis)

    Finally, the incidence and prevention of colds is highly dependent on vitamin D(3) status, which is why so many people get sick in winter.

    Keeping both vitamin C and D levels high is the best way to prevent cold and flu.


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