Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and
Vitamin C Doesn’t Prevent Colds
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri in Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
It’s that time of year when people start developing symptoms of a cold. Many people reach for the vitamin C supplements to help prevent or combat symptoms of the common cold. The research shows that you can just save your money because except in extreme situations, extra vitamin C does very little to reduce symptoms or duration of a cold.
Several well-designed studies have been conducted to test whether taking vitamin C could reduce the risk for developing a cold or lessen the symptoms. The conclusion of the studies was that vitamin C did not reduce the risk for developing a cold. In some studies the cold was less severe in groups taking vitamin C but the symptoms were not enough less severe to recommend taking extra vitamin C to treat cold symptoms. Many people have thought that they needed to take mega doses of vitamin C to treat a cold.
In the few instances where there was less severity of the cold with vitamin C supplements, 250 milligrams per day helped just as much as 1,000 milligrams or 4,000 milligrams.
There have been some studies where vitamin C taken in doses of 200 milligrams per day did decrease the risk of developing a cold by as much as 50%. People who are living in extreme circumstances such as soldiers participating in sub-arctic exercises, marathon runners and skiers are the people who can benefit from vitamin C for cold prevention.
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It has several important functions in the body which includes helping to produce collagen. Collagen is the connective tissue that helps hold muscles, bones and other tissues together. Vitamin C helps to heal cuts and wounds, helps keep your gums healthy, helps to prevent bruising and works as an antioxidant to prevent damage to body cells.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 90 milligrams a day for adult males and 75 milligrams per day for adult females. Vitamin C is found in abundance in citrus fruits but is also abundant in other fruits and vegetables. One-half cup of red bell pepper contains 140 milligrams of vitamin C, ¾ cup of orange juice contains 75 milligrams, ½ cup of strawberries and the same amount of broccoli provides 50 milligrams of vitamin C.
Vitamin C does provide many important functions in the body but unfortunately, preventing colds is not one of them.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009