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Vitamin C and colds

Alternative Names

Colds and vitamin C

Information

Despite the popular belief that vitamin C can cure the common cold, the scientific evidence for this is conflicting.

Large doses of vitamin C may help reduce the duration of a cold, but they do not appear to protect against one in the first place, even after exposure to a cold virus.

Vitamin C may only be useful in case of a cold if you have low levels of this nutrient to begin with. For example, the vitamin may be useful for preventing a cold if you live in very low temperature environments, or you are routinely involved in vigorous exercise such as marathon running.

The likelihood of success may be very individual -- some people improve, while others do not.

People with kidney disease should avoid vitamin C supplements. Most experts advise that you meet your daily vitamin and mineral requirements by eating a balanced diet. Taking more than 500 mg of vitamin C at any one time provides no advantage. More than that amount is simply lost through nonabsorption or urination.

References

Douglas RM, Hemilä H, Chalker E, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18;(3):CD000980.

Simasek M, Blandino DA. Treatment of the common cold. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75:515-520.


Review Date: 5/13/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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