At the first signs of a cold, many of us pour a big glass of OJ on the assumption that loading up on vitamin C is a surefire way to kick just about any bug. Modern-age nose-blowers may also reach for “immunity boosters” like Airborne and Emergen-C to cure the sniffles. But does vitamin C—and the supplements that tout its benefits—really work to prevent (or cure) the common cold?
Out in the Cold—Why It Matters
Researchers have studied the role vitamin C plays in preventing and treating the common cold for more than 60 years. Most experts say there is still little proof that increasing vitamin C intake will help cut down on sick days.1
Still, the research isn’t conclusive. One study found that taking a daily vitamin C supplement reduced the frequency of catching a cold, while another discovered that it has an antihistamine effect that could reduce cold symptoms.2Another study found that vitamin C made a big difference in preventing colds in those exposed to brief periods of intense cold or extreme physical exercise (like skiers, military personnel, and marathon runners) but not the general population.1
And a different study suggests that upping vitamin C intake could reduce the severity and duration of a cold—and hopefully erase the need for that economy-size tissue box….