The common cold is not fun. Double Nobel-winner Linus Pauling is responsible for popularizing the idea that high doses of Vitamin C could reduce the likelihood of catching a cold. But when put to the test, there has been little evidence that he was right. At best, you’d have to take a high dose of the stuff every day of the year to see a cold reduced in length from 12 days to 11 days. Tissues are cheaper.
Oranges, grapefruits and other vitamin C-loaded foods have many health benefits. But study after study has shown that the vitamin does little—if anything—to cure, prevent or even shorten the duration of the common cold.
The most recent roundup of vitamin C research, published this spring in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, evaluated several decades of studies that included more than 11,000 subjects taking 200 or more milligrams of vitamin C each day. (The government’s recommended daily allowance is 60 milligrams.) The research found that vitamin C did little to reduce either the length or severity of colds among the general population. However, studies have found that it may lower the risk of catching a cold among people whose bodies are under high physical stress—think marathon runners or soldiers on subarctic exercises. They were 50 percent less likely to catch a cold if they took a daily dose of vitamin C.
Orange juice, contrary to popular belief, can and does cause serious congestion when you have a cold. It’s not the best thing by a long shot.
At the first sign of a cold, many of us are urged to drink orange juice or tuck into a satsuma. So how can this vitamin help ward off the sniffles? Vitamin C works as an antioxidant, tracking down free radicals in the body and destroying them.
Vitamin C can also help prolong your life. A study carried out by Cambridge University in March followed the eating habits of 20,000 people and found that those with the highest levels of vitamin C in their blood were far less likely to die of cancer or heart disease. Alternative health experts advise taking between 1.5 to 4 grams of vitamin C at the very first signs of a cold. Waiting for just 12 hours can stop the antioxidants from tracking down the virus before it takes hold of your body. You need to take the vitamin for the length of your cold.
While the cold-killing effect may not exist, doctors have little incentive to correct the notion that it does, since consumption of vitamin C is not considered a public threat. (In fact, some studies have associated vitamin C’s antioxidant properties with a decreased incidence of some cancers.) “Is it worth trying to dissuade people?” asks Arnold Monto, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. “You’ve got to choose your battles in public health. Having an extra glass of orange juice may do some good, and it certainly isn’t going to do a lot of harm.”
In short, if you like the taste of orange juice, then drink up. But keep the tissues handy.
Colds are caused by viruses, which do not respond to medications or other remedies. Hot liquids can help soothe a sore throat and relieve congestion by breaking up mucous secretions, but they will not cure your cold. People usually recommend orange juice for immunity because of its high Vitamin C content, however researchers do not agree on its efficacy against the common cold and flu. Unfortunately, you just have to let your cold run it’s course.
You can have the traditional way to prevent yourself from cold by increasing your daily intake with a daily dose of orange or grapefruit juice, peaches, red peppers or other Vitamin C-rich food — or with a vitamin supplement. Double up with Echinacea for an added boost. Other natural cold-preventatives include the herb andrographis, zinc and elderberry extract.
Cold and flu season in the U.S. stretches from November to March. As many as one in five U.S. residents contracts influenza. And most people come down with a cold – two or three of them per season.
To ward off these common winter illnesses, boost your immune system with natural food sources of vitamin C. Studies have shown that vitamin pills aren’t as effective at warding off many diseases. Other potential natural cold-preventatives include the herb andrographis, zinc and elderberry extract, but vitamin C has the best track record.
You may be surprised to learn that oranges do not top the list of foods with the most vitamin C.
A study shows that women who get too little vitamin C are 131% more likely to have a pudgy middle! Vitamin C increases your body’s ability to torch fat for fuel, both during exercise and while at rest, explain researchers.
AIM FOR: 75 mg. of vitamin C daily from supplements or foods like orange juice and peppers.