Why Vitamin C Won’t Cure Your Common Cold

Marco Verch via Flickr

Got the sniffles or feel a sore throat coming on? You might immediately reach for a cup of orange juice, which is packed with vitamin C. That’s sure to do just the trick to kick your cold in its tracks, right?

Actually, not necessarily. The idea that increasing your intake of vitamin C to help the common cold is actually a bit of a myth.

It all started in the 1970s when Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling made the claim that vitamin C can help colds. While medical professionals questioned this claim, many people trusted him and figured it couldn’t hurt to up their intake of the stuff to help their health—and the claim has stuck since.

The thing is, his claims weren’t based on any real hard evidence or real studies—he simply tried it once and he got fewer colds.

Nowadays, there have been studies and research done on the phenomenon, and while there’s some research that shows a slight correlation between vitamin C and colds, you’d have to regularly take 1,000 mg to reduce your cold—and that only reduces your risk by a measly 8 percent.

In addition, taking vitamin C doesn’t actually help you avoid a cold if you don’t already have one. “After the cold is running its course, [vitamin C] doesn’t have any effect,” explained dietitian Andy Bellatti, MS, RD.

And, some studies suggest that upping vitamin C to help colds only really works in people who engage in “intense” exercise, like those who run marathons.

In conclusion, vitamin C really doesn’t very little to protect the common people against colds. In fact, it can even cause some not-so-fun side effects, like diarrhea.

So what does work to cure a common cold? Unfortunately, the sickness doesn’t lend itself to many remedies. There are, however, a few ways you can soothe symptoms—and none of them include vitamin C. Next time you’re feeling run down, try these instead of a vitamin C pill:

  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated
  • Rest and sleep as much as you can
  • Sip warm liquids like chicken broth or tea
  • Turn on your humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to the air
  • Take a long steamy shower
  • Use hot or cold packs to soothe congestion
  • Gargle salt water to help a scratchy throat
  • Take an over-the-counter medicine like Tylenol

To learn more about how the vitamin C hype plays a role in people thinking vitamin C helps colds, check out this informative video below!

Did you have any idea how unhelpful vitamin C could be for colds? What do you usually do to help cold symptoms when they hit?