Will taking Vitamin C really prevent me from getting sick?

“Being sick is just your body’s way of letting you know that you are too awesome and you need to slow down so everyone can catch up.” ~ Unknown

I don’t know about you but I DESPISE being sick. I am not a good sick person. In fact, I usually go through several stages of denial whenever I am sick. img_5168

  • Denial Stage 1: I’m sure when I sit up I will feel better. I’m not sick.
  • Denial Stage 2: Maybe after I take a shower. Showers fix everything. I can’t possibly be sick.
  • Denial Stage 3: I really just don’t have time to be sick so I will just push through this and then I will be ok.
  • Stage 4: I am dying, where is my sick robe, someone take care of me now!!!

Now that we are in the middle of cold and flu season, one of the things I hear people say is “I won’t get sick, I have been loading up on Vitamin C.” It is common knowledge that Vitamin C is important for the immune system but does it really help keep us from getting sick?

Adults catch approximately 2-5 colds/year with children suffering from the common cold about 6-10 times/year.

In 2013, researchers did a review of 29 vitamin C trials including over 11,000 participants in total to determine how effective daily supplementation with Vitamin C was in reducing the common cold. They found that in adults the chance of getting the common cold was only reduced by 8% and in children it was reduced by 14%. The authors concluded that the low reductions in incidence did not merit widespread regular supplementation of Vitamin C.

For adults the recommended daily amount of vitamin C is 65-90mg/day. The upper limit is 2.0 g/day. Most multivitamins contain between 500-1,000 mg of Vitamin C per day. Remember be sure to talk to your health care provider before starting any new supplement!

In a recent meta-analysis (analytical review of studies), researchers found that taking supplementing with a large amount of Vitamin C JUST during the cold was not effective in reducing the length of the cold or symptoms. However, regular vitamin C (1.0g/day) plus a slightly larger dose of Vitamin C (3.0-4.0g/day) during a cold could help reduce the cold by about 1/2 a day and slightly reduce symptoms including chest pain, fever and chills.

So what does this all mean? Regular vitamin C supplementation MAY be helpful for some specific populations to help prevent the common cold however for most people, taking a vitamin C supplement won’t have a great effect on preventing or reducing the symptoms.

So what is the most effective way of preventing the common cold?

  • Wash your hands REGULARLY for 20 seconds with soap!
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose with unwashed hands.
  • Stay away from sick people.

Happy planting and eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

*Disclaimer: This blog is intended for educational purposes only and is not to serve as medical advice. Speak to medical professional about your specific conditions before beginning any new supplement regime. 

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