Can Vitamin C prevent the common cold?

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Can Vitamin C prevent the common cold?

It’s been called “the cure for the common cold” many times over the decades but just how effective is ascorbic acid better known as vitamin C for keeping us from getting sick?

About Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a unique vitamin for humans in the fact that most mammals and other animals have the ability to make vitamin C or ascorbic acid on their own.  Humans cannot make vitamin C so we must obtain it from our food choices.  We need vitamin C on a regular basis because of this fact as it is required to help strengthens our immune system, bone structure, iron absorption and for healthy skin.

Vitamin C and its impact on colds

Vitamin C’s claim to fame was born when Nobel laureate Dr. Linus Pauling escalated public interest in the use of large doses of this water soluble vitamin taken as a supplement stating it could prevent the common cold.  Numerous studies have been conducted over the years trying to prove if vitamin C lived up to Dr. Pauling’s assertion was true but there have been few that support fully what he said.  A recent 2017 review looked at the validity of vitamin C preventing common colds but found that taking a vitamin C supplement on a regular basis only slightly reduced the length and severity of a cold.

A more convincing 2013 study did a review of 29 randomized trials with over 11,000 participants.  What the researchers found were the participants who took at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C daily and were extremely active such as marathon runners, skiers and Army troops practicing heavy workouts in subartic conditions did reduce their risk of getting a cold in half.  But for the other participants who were not exercising as hard, they did not have any benefit from taking vitamin C daily in order to cut the risk of getting a cold.

Most doctors and scientists agree that research results and data show only marginally beneficial effects from taking a vitamin C supplement in regards to reducing or preventing a cold.

Best advice on obtaining Vitamin C

The best way for people to obtain vitamin C is by consuming rich food sources containing it. Men require at least 90 milligrams (mg) and women require at least 75 mg of it daily.  Vitamin C is only found in fruits and vegetables with some of the best sources including the following:

·      Orange juice – ¾ cup – 62-93 mg

·      Grapefruit juice – ¾ cup – 62-70 mg

·      Kiwifruit – 1 – 91 mg

·      Orange – 1 – 70 mg

·      Grapefruit – ½ - 38 mg

·      Strawberries – 1 cup – 85 mg

·      Tomato – 1 medium – 16 mg

·      Sweet red pepper – ½ cup – 95 mg

·      Broccoli – ½ cup cooked – 51 mg

·      Potato – 1 medium, baked – 17 mg

·      Spinach – 1 cup, raw – 8 mg

The best advice is to make it a habit of choosing rich food sources of vitamin C each day by loading up on fruits and vegetables at each meal.  Vitamin C rich food sources not only provide this essential nutrient but you will also get other important nutrients along with it.  If you eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day you will get sufficient vitamin C.  And when your body is already getting the vitamin C it requires on a daily, regular basis, your body will be much better prepared to help fight off a cold to begin with without having to resort to taking a supplement of it.