Vitamin C helps treat colds?

Posted on: May 25th, 2011 by sdavis

Lucinda Harms, RPh, is the director of pharmacy at CarePro Compounding and Advance Health.

Does vitamin C actually reduce the duration and severity of common cold symptoms?  Studies show that it does. 

It enhances the immune response and acts as an antihistamine.  Vitamin C has been shown to destroy histamine and reduces plasma histamine levels by 40 percent after two weeks of supplementation at doses of 2000 mg/day.  Supplementing vitamin C in high doses causes a rapid, but temporary rise in vitamin C concentrations in respiratory tract lining fluids, which may provide immediate antioxidant protection to lung tissues and relieve oxidative stress in the airways. 

In elderly patients hospitalized with acute respiratory infections, patients were randomized to receive 200 mg of vitamin C daily or placebo.  Those receiving the vitamin C recovered more rapidly than patients receiving placebo and they also experienced lower death rates (4 percent versus 17 percent).  In a Japanese study, vitamin C supplementation with 500 mg/day reduced the number of common colds by 20 percent over a 3-year period, compared with placebo.  One study in the UK showed that 1000 mg daily of vitamin C was associated with a shorter cold duration (1.8 versus 3.1 days)  and fewer reported colds (0.4 versus 0.6 colds/person).

The most pronounced benefit of vitamin C on cold incidence and severity has been demonstrated in populations experiencing extreme physical stress.  Six hundred mgs daily markedly reduced the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in ultramarathon runners for the 14 day period following a competitive 42 km race when compared with placebo.  In military recruits, vitamin C (300-3000 mg/day) was associated with a significant reduction in severity of cold episodes in 4 out of 5 controlled trials.   

Fight those spring colds this year by asking your doctor or pharmacist about vitamin C supplementation.

In good health,


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