Vitamin C Doesn’t Cure a Common Cold but Has Health Benefits
Sniffles, chills, fever, aches and pains all mean it is cold season so reach for the vitamin C and take it to treat your cold, however you will still have the sniffles and the aches and pains as studies conclude that vitamin C does not cure a common cold.
So how did vitamin C and the cold connection start? It seems it came from Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist who wrote the book in 1970 called Vitamin C and the Common Cold. The book sent millions of people to their local drug store to take vitamin C to relieve their cold symptoms.
The book came with little scientific backing and was largely devoid of evidence, says Pauling biographer Thomas Hager. "He published this very influential health book without writing a single scientific paper on the subject," he says. "He seemed to be prescribing a major change in dietary habits without much evidence." Nonetheless, the book's message stuck.
To put the rumors to rest, Robert M Douglas of the Australian National University, Canberra, and Harri Hemilä of the University of Helsinki, Finland, reviewed the best quality studies on vitamin C and the common cold done over the last 65 years.
The authors looked at 23 studies done in the general population, using doses of up to 2g daily, and found that vitamin C did not reduce the risk. They conclude that "the lack of effect of prophylactic vitamin C supplementation on the incidence of common cold in normal populations throws doubt on the utility of this wide practice." The authors did find some evidence that the vitamin may help prevent colds in people who were exposed to extreme physical exertion or cold weather.
Don’t be too quick to toss out your bottles of vitamin C. According to Mark Kantor, Ph.D., food and nutrition specialist, department of nutrition and food science, University of Maryland vitamin C has great health benefits. It can aid in wound healing; prevents periodontal disease; maintains collagen and connective tissue in the body; and acts as the most versatile and effective water-soluble dietary antioxidant.
More recently, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that an adequate intake of vitamin C might protect against stroke and heart attack by lowering blood pressure and LDL ("bad cholesterol") levels, and helping to thin the blood to protect against clots. It also helps prevent atherosclerosis (commonly known as hardening of the arteries) by strengthening the artery walls as it manufactures collagen, the protein that gives shape to connective tissues and strength to skin and blood vessels.
Vitamin C doesn’t cure the common cold however it has a great deal of health benefits. Supplements and foods containing vitamin C can help people with a variety of conditions and should be part of a healthy diet.
Materials from Science Daily, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and ABC News are used in this report.
Written by Tyler Woods Ph.D.
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