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Vitamin C and the common cold - Medically Speaking, Volume Three, Number Seven, 1/21/16

With cold and flu season underway some may be suffering from a long lasting cold and others might be trying to fight off the virus. Vitamin C has long claimed to be the number one antioxidant associated with fighting off the common cold. Does taking vitamin C really help with your cold?

Here’s what we know. There is not a lot of evidence showing a clinical relationship between taking vitamin C and reducing the occurrence of the common cold. Vitamin C does support the immune system and if you aren’t getting enough then your immune system, tasked with fighting off illness, may be compromised. The RDA for women is 75 mg/day and men is 90 mg/day. Any evidence supporting the promotion of vitamin C shows that it is most powerful when taken on a regular basis. Taking 500mg of vitamin C on a daily basis may slightly decrease your chances of getting sick or shorten the time of your cold. This is especially true for athletes and people who spend long hours in the cold. Studies show that when supplementing over 1000mg per day the absorption decreases to about 50% and the excess is excreted in the urine.

If you only start increasing your vitamin C once you have a cold already it will not help as much as a regular routine. That being said, your body does not store very much vitamin C, somewhere between 300- 2000mg total. So if you are taking a supplement you should also try to increase your intake of vitamin C rich foods throughout the day. When I say vitamin C most people automatically think of oranges, maybe grapefruits and other citrus fruits. These fruits do have a significant amount of vitamin C in them, but they aren’t your only source. Brocolli, kale, strawberries and potatoes provide a good amount of the nutrient. Some of the lesser known sources include chili peppers, bell peppers and cauliflower.

Whether it helps prevent a cold or not, increasing natural sources of vitamin C in your diet will most likely increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, which is always a good idea!

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