Many people turn to vitamin C to help them get better when they catch a cold. They load up on citrus fruits and take supplements to increase their intake of this important nutrient. But does this really work? So far, scientists couldn’t find any proof that taking vitamin C when sick helps treat the symptoms of a cold.
How the Vitamin C Myth Came to Life
Vitamin C got its reputation as a miracle cold remedy in the early 1970s. The person who originated this claim was the chemist and Nobel laureate, Linus Pauling. Every day, he would take 200 times more vitamin C than recommended. In his 1970 book, he touted this as the best way to prevent the common cold.
For decades, scientists have tried to find proof for these claims. Many studies have focused on the alleged benefits of taking vitamin C when sick. Yet their findings were disappointing at best.
The Truth behind the Myth
A 2013 review compared the results of 29 studies on the effects of vitamin C on the common cold. The researchers could not find a link between the two in any of the studies they analyzed.
But they did conclude that taking 200 mg of vitamin C each day could help reduce the duration of the symptoms. According to them, this only works if the person takes vitamins before catching a cold. That’s because an infection will deplete your cells of this essential vitamin. Stocking up on vitamin C thus ensures that your body has enough energy to fight the cold.
There’s no proof that taking vitamin C when sick will help you recover faster. But if you take it on a regular basis while you’re healthy, it may help your body fight the common cold more efficiently. It is thus important to make vitamin C-rich foods part of your regular diet.
The recommended daily intake is 90 mg for men and about 75 mg for women. If you can’t get your daily dose via food, there are many vitamin C-based supplements available.