Vitamin C has long been held up as the number one choice for cold sufferers, and recent research shows many people still believe that citrus is the way to go when you have the sniffles.
The common cold is caused by several strains of viruses. In the 1970s, Linus Pauling proposed that vitamin C could reduce the incidence of colds, still the number one reason people go to see their GP. That research showed some benefits, but the doses were huge which can cause all manner of additional problems.
Since then, further more realistic research has shown that regular doses of vitamin C, both from supplements and natural sources, have no effect on the reduction in catching the common cold. In fact, the most cited studies show no difference to a placebo and that high doses of vitamin C can actually be harmful!
If you want to avoid catching a cold, what can you stock up on to help if vitamin C isn’t the answer?
Here’s a different vitamin, a plant and a mineral you might want to take a look at instead.
While some studies show that vitamin D won’t reduce your chance of developing a common cold, there is no doubt that it does help to boost your immune system (especially during winter months when sunlight is reduced) and there are studies that reveal vitamin D is a useful combatant to the more serious influenza bug. Prof. Ronald Eccles of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University agrees that, for some people, vitamin D supplementation can help.
Take note: we are using the full name of this plant extract so that you ensure you take the right thing. Echinacea has been touted for years as a cure for the common cold, and while some studies have shown it to be as useful as vitamin C, others have noted that the plant extract can reduce the length of your cold, helping you to recover quicker. Take it as soon as you feel the symptoms, and be sure to check the label for the word ‘purpurea’.
Zinc has been shown in many studies to aid the prevention of a cold, but a recent independent research paper also indicates it can ease and reduce the length of your cold too. A study of over 2,000 people showed a reduction in the common cold of one to two days over a placebo group.
If you do decide to use supplements, rather than natural food sources, to help fend off or shorten your cold, be sure to stick to the recommended doses. As was found with Linus Pauling’s research, megadoses of vitamins and minerals can be extremely harmful to the body, with much longer lasting effects than a simple cold.
We like to get our vitamins and minerals through eating whole and healthy foods, but if you do need to supplement then you’ll find a great selection over at Holland & Barrett (UK) or Abe’s Market (US)
So should we use vitamin C to ward off the common cold? Probably not, based on the research – try vitamin D, echinacea purpurea and zinc instead.