Vitamin C Research on Fighting Common Colds

Vitamin C Research on Fighting Common Colds

Vitamin C is probably the most talked about vitamin; oranges, lemons, grapefruits. I think we all associate positively with Vitamin C and good health.

And Vitamin C is frequently mentioned during winter months in terms of helping to fight off colds and flu symptoms. Lots of people firmly believe that a good daily intake of Vitamin C, either via food and/or as a daily nutritional supplement helps to keep the ‘bugs’ at bay.

Naturally there are plenty of those who feel that this is nonsense;
that yes we need Vitamin C for general good health but that it has no influence on our body protecting, warding off, or minimising risks of colds and flu.

To date research has shown that for most people regularly taking Vitamin C supplements will not prevent them from catching a cold – however such a course of action can expect to shorten the amount of time that they are ill and/or lessen their symptoms.

Now an updated Cochrane Review on vitamin C and the common cold suggest that “vitamin C seems to be particularly beneficial for people under heavy physical stress”. As reported in Science Daily (there is a full link to their excellent article below) which notes:

“In five randomized trials of participants with heavy short-term physical stress, vitamin C halved the incidence of the common cold. Three of the trials studied marathon runners, one studied Swiss school children in a skiing camp and one studied Canadian soldiers during a winter exercise. Furthermore, in a recent randomized trial carried out with adolescent competitive swimmers, vitamin C halved the duration of colds in males, although the vitamin had no effect on females.”

We also include the link to the website of Cochrane Summaries for ‘Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold’ (Hemilä H, Chalker E; Published Online: January 31, 2013). It is a short summary and well worth reading; one paragraph extract is below:

“This review is restricted to placebo-controlled trials testing 0.2 g/day or more of vitamin C. Regular ingestion of vitamin C had no effect on common cold incidence in the ordinary population, based on 29 trial comparisons involving 11,306 participants. However, regular supplementation had a modest but consistent effect in reducing the duration of common cold symptoms, which is based on 31 study comparisons with 9745 common cold episodes. In five trials with 598 participants exposed to short periods of extreme physical stress (including marathon runners and skiers) vitamin C halved the common cold risk. The published trials have not reported adverse effects of vitamin C.”

The EU RDA for vitamin C is 80mg per day, however higher supplementation starting at 200mg daily of a suitable and natural Vitamin C supplement are more commonly suggested. Indeed a daily supplementation of up to 1000mg is quite common and frequently referred to. An excessive dose of Vitamin C can cause stomach discomfort and diarrhoea.

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin however since the human body neither produces or stores (for any length of time) this particular vitamin we need to maintain suitable levels through diet and/ or supplements. Those who may choose to take Vitamin C supplements:

  • People whose diets contain little fresh fruit and vegetables
  • The elderly and those dependent on institutional catering
  • Smokers and those who drink alcohol
  • Those with demanding lifestyles
  • Those wishing to maintain normal cholesterol levels
  • Athletes and those whose work involves physical activity
  • People who take aspirin, particularly those on long-term prescription medication

Please do comment on this item – for example your experience of using Vitamin C supplements – you can use the ‘leave a reply’ option below, or comment on the story via our Facebook page (link to the right).


Science Daily Article: Vitamin C Is Beneficial Against the Common Cold, Review Suggests

Cochrane Summaries: Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold

Helsingin yliopisto (University of Helsinki). “Vitamin C is beneficial against the common cold, review suggests.” ScienceDaily, 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.

Last updated on 16th December 2014 by


One thought on “Vitamin C Research on Fighting Common Colds

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