Vitamin C has long been of interest to medical experts and researchers for its role in supporting the immune system and its potential in preventing and treating infections.
As the cold and flu season approaches, many individuals arm themselves with a familiar defense: pills, powders, and various forms of vitamin C. Does vitamin C actually help prevent cold and flu?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, has long been of interest to medical experts and researchers for its role in supporting the immune system and its potential in preventing and treating infections. However, there is no concrete evidence to support the claim so far.
A study titled ‘The Long History of Vitamin C: From Prevention of the Common Cold to Potential Aid in the Treatment of COVID-19’ makes an interesting observation. Although it is well known that a deficiency of vitamin C due to a low nutritional intake leads to a greater susceptibility to infections, the possibility of reducing the incidence of viral diseases in a well-nourished population through the use of dietary supplements based on vitamin C is not adequately supported in literature.
Interestingly, two-time Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, a prominent chemist in the early 1960s, was instrumental in popularising the notion that mega-doses of vitamin C, often reaching 3,000 mg per day, could eradicate the common cold and combat more severe conditions like heart disease and cancer, thereby promoting healthier and longer lives.
Pauling’s vitamin C claims, though, never stood up to rigorous research, says Stefan Pasiakos, a research physiologist and director of the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements in the United States. He contends that consuming copious amounts of orange juice or vitamin C supplements is unlikely to offer substantial protection against the common cold.
In fact, exceeding the recommended daily intake (90 mg for men and 75 mg for women) generally does not confer improved overall health. The body’s absorption of vitamin C becomes less efficient at doses surpassing 1000 mg, with excess amounts being excreted in urine.
Consuming varied servings of fruits and vegetables a day can offer a healthy intake of vitamin C. It’s important to note that vitamin C content of food may be reduced by prolonged storage and by cooking as ascorbic acid is water soluble and is destroyed by heat. Steaming or microwaving may lessen cooking losses.