David Poon, BSc. Immunology and Infection, PharmD Student
Doesn’t it seem like once the weather changes, you have that 1 friend who immediately gets sick? They start sniffing, coughing and sneezing all around you! Next thing you know, you feel like you have a scratchy throat and start feeling unwell. At that point, you Google home remedies to prevent the cold because you just can’t get sick right now. You come across an article that says taking Vitamin C can prevent and treat the common cold. Excellent! Fantastic! You open the fridge and take out a 2L jug of orange juice. STOP! Before you drink all of that liquid, take a few minutes to read through this article.
Vitamin C vs. The Common Cold
A Cochrane Review published in 2013 took into consideration the results of 29 different studies1. These smaller studies compared patients taking at least 200 mg of vitamin C to placebo. The authors determined that using large doses of vitamin C at the start of a cold doesn’t affect the severity or duration of a cold for the general population. Surprisingly, in times of extreme physical stress (soldiers, skiers, marathon runners), vitamin C helped reduce the chance of getting a cold by half. Now if you were to use vitamin C prophylactically everyday, it may slightly reduce the duration of a cold. Lastly, one trial found that 8g of vitamin C taken for 5 days at the onset of a cold showed some benefit.
The Bottom Line
Vitamin C just isn’t worth it. Let’s be realistic here for a moment. There’s about 124 mg of vitamin C found in 1 cup of orange juice. Personally, I can’t imagine drinking at least 2 cups of orange juice everyday or 65 cups of orange juice when I feel sick to combat the common cold. Alternatively, there are vitamin C tablets and powders available, but those options can be costly. If you want to find out what might help manage your cold symptoms, check out this article we wrote earlier in the year about the common cold.
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1. Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD000980. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4.