Vitamin C – Does it really prevent colds??

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is one of the most well-known vitamins. It is a water-soluble vitamin, so our bodies can excrete excess as needed.  Because of this there is a lesser chance of consuming toxic levels.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can be regenerated by vitamin E (more to come in future weeks).  Vitamin C plays a huge role in the synthesis of collagen, which is part of many tissues in the body. It also helps with the synthesis of norepi (aka adrenaline), bile acids, and carnitine (needed to transport fat from cells to be converted to energy). Scurvy can occur when people have vitamin C deficiency, but it is quite rare.

Most all controversy that exists around vitamin C is related to supplement use and not from consuming vitamin C through food sources. While most American believe they should take a vitamin C supplement when they start to get sick, no studies can prove that vitamin C supplementation reduces the risk or duration of colds.  Some studies have found that consuming foods high in vitamin C (not supplements) may reduce the duration of a cold by a very minimal amount. This could be due to the other components of the food working together to strengthen immunity. Additional information on vitamin C in disease prevention and treatment can be found here.

How much should I have? In general, adults need 75 mg (females) to 90 mg (males).

Where can I get vitamin C? Adequate vitamin C can easily be obtained through diet. A half of a cup of peppers contains 95 mg and a medium orange contains 70 mg.

Weekly Challenge: If you take a vitamin C supplement, discontinue use and try to eat your RDA from food sources (unless, of course, your physician has prescribed that you take vitamin C).

Resources

  1. The Office of Dietary Supplements Vitamin C Fact Sheet
  2. The Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrients Information Center – Vitamin C
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