Does Vitamin C treat a cold?

How should you respond to a friend who, the minute you have a cough or sneeze, shoves a packet of Emergen-C in your face and orders, “Drink up!” Well, if you’re me, the response has always been, “You know, there are really no studies that prove this helps!” And I’m met with a lot of eye rolling and insistence that yes, it does help, and I’d better quit my “Dr. Know-it-all attitude” and push that vitamin C. Well, I kinda like the taste of Emergen-C, and it can’t hurt, right???

AND THEN . . .

Thank you, NYU Clinical Correlations blog for an excellent review of Vitamin C for the prevention and treatment of cold symptoms. I’d suggest reading the whole entry, but here’s the bottom line:

So, at the end of the day, is there any benefit to taking a daily vitamin C supplement, or for chugging down that fizzy shot of mega-dose vitamin C when you feel a cold coming on?  If you are a marathon runner, or if you are planning a winter adventure in the arctic tundra, you should certainly consider a daily dose of vitamin C.  For the rest of us, it doesn’t seem to be worth the hassle and expense of adding one more pill to our daily routine. 

 On the other hand, regarding the effect of vitamin C taken at the onset of cold symptoms, the Cochrane group left a little room for interpretation.  The group was unable to identify a clinically significant benefit of therapeutic dosing based on the majority of currently available research.  However, they pointed to a few interesting trials showing evidence of benefit, yet to be verified, for therapeutic vitamin C preparations containing 4 to 8 grams.  Furthermore, in the general population, vitamin C’s side effect profile appears to be relatively benign. 

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