Vitamin C Common Cold Studies: Should You take More Vitamin C?

By Arturo Galindo, Cert. Nutritional Therapist

 There are vitamin C common cold studies that show protection against colds. But there are also many studies that show little or no value against colds. 

Why is that?  The main reason is a lack of understanding of how vitamin C works inside the body. 

Let me explain.  I used to get colds all the time. It made my life miserable.  

I was taking vitamin C, but not early enough and in frequent doses throughout the day. Once I did that, it made a huge difference. I found this through research and personal experience.

In this article I list some studies that show both good and poor results using vitamin C against colds and why.

This is to help you decide if you should take more vitamin C to prevent and fight the common cold. 

Vitamin C Common Cold Research Studies

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Important:  Ascorbic acid or vitamin C is more than a vitamin.
Why? It regulates many functions in your body to make sure they're doing their best job in keeping you healthy!

About Vitamin C Common Cold Studies

Vitamin C and colds protection is not new but many people are still not aware of the real value of taking enough ascorbic acid. What is that?

I found that the doses used in vitamin C common cold studies was different, and produced different results based on the dose amount and the frequency

Vitamin C Common Cold StudiesVitamin C Common Cold Studies

And here's something very interesting. 

Even in studies that used less than 1 gram per day, vitamin C showed some protection against the common cold.

But do many vitamin C common cold studies find that vitamin C is not effective against colds?

That's a great question! And to help you find the reason why, ask yourself the following questions as you read the studies below.

  • How soon was vitamin C given at the first sign of a cold?
  • How much was the size of the dose?
  • How frequent were the doses throughout the day?

What you'll find is that the vitamin C common cold studies that showed the best results had the participants in the studies do the following:

  • Take Vitamin C at the first sign of a cold
  • Take enough vitamin C
  • Take vitamin C in frequent enough doses for several days


Vitamin C Common Cold Studies with Good Results

These studies used more than 1 gram of vitamin C frequently throughout the day, for several days. The doses started at the beginning of a cold, as soon as the first symptoms appeared. 

Vitamin C in the prevention of Colds.
Markwell, N. W.
Medical Journal of Australia 1947 Vol.2 pp.777-778
Findings:  “...good results are reported from the use of large doses of vitamin C [ascorbic acid] in aborting colds. The sooner the vitamin C [ascorbic acid] was given after the onset of the cold the better the effect.”

Massive doses of vitamin C and the virus diseases.
F R Klenner
Published in Southern medicine and surgery 1951
Findings:   “It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that the degree of neutralization in a virus infection will be in proportion to the concentration of the vitamin and the length of time in which it is employed.”

The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections.
J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1999 Oct;22(8):530-3.
Gorton HC, Jarvis K.
This is a controlled study of 463 students. Students took one gram of vitamin C every hour for the first 6 hours after a cold started. After that, they took one gram three times daily.
Findings: Cold symptoms were reduced 85%. The study found that large repeated doses reduced and prevented the symptoms of colds and the flu. 

Preventing the common cold with a vitamin C supplement: A double-blind, placebo-controlled survey
Michael Van Straten, Peter D Josling
Published in Advances in Therapy 2002
This is a 2002 placebo controlled, double bind clinical trial. There were 168 volunteers in the study divided in two groups. One group took a placebo. The vitamin C group took tablets of vitamin C daily for 60 days during winter. 
Findings: The vitamin C group had fewer and less severe colds, and also recovered more quickly.



Vitamin C Common Cold Studies with Poor Results

These studies found that vitamin C showed little value or no value against colds. The possible reasons are one or more of the following:

  • The first vitamin C dose was given hours after a cold started.
  • Vitamin C was not given in enough amounts
  • Vitamin C was not given frequently throughout the day
  • Vitamin C doses were given for only one day, and then stopped

Effects of ascorbic acid on the common cold. An evaluation of the evidence.
Am J Med. 1975 Apr;58(4):532-6.
Chalmers TC.
Findings: “Since there are no data on the long-term toxicity of ascorbic acid when given in doses of 1 g or more per day, it is concluded that the minor benefits of questionable validity are not worth the potential risk, no matter how small that might be.”

Dr. Harrie Hemila looked at the results of this study. He found one study of only 20-50 mg was included and biased the results. This error reinforced the idea that vitamin C was ineffective. (Hickey, Ascorbate, The Science of Vitamin C)

Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jan 31;(1):
Hemilä H1, Chalker E.
This is a review of 30 published studies.
Findings: The review found that a dose of one gram per day did not prevent colds but it also found that this small dose did reduce the duration of colds.

Mega-dose vitamin C in treatment of the common cold: a randomised controlled trial.
Med J Aust. 2001 Oct 1;175(7):359-62.
Audera C1, Patulny RV, Sander BH, Douglas RM.

This was a double-blind clinical trial of 400 volunteers. It found that 1-3 grams taken daily after a cold starts did not reduce the duration or severity of cold. The author said he stopped taking supplements after this.

Dr. Steven Hickey explain in his book what was wrong with the method used in this vitamin C common cold study:

  • First dose was given too late after the first symptoms of colds. Participants were told to wait at least 4 hours after the first symptoms.
  • Doses were not repeated throughout the day. The single dose was 1 to 3 grams daily.

Dr. Hickey estimated that people had the first dose 10 hours after the first symptoms. In this case, you need much larger doses of vitamin C.  

How much larger?

Pharmacological doses, not nutritional doses. A pharmacological dose would be a bowel tolerance dose.

The author of the study fails to understand how vitamin C works in the body. The body needs enough vitamin C at the beginning of a cold in frequent doses throughout the day.

This study also cites 4 other studies that have the same flaws. They fail to understand the operation mechanism of vitamin C in the body.

  • The effect on winter illness of large doses of vitamin C. T. W. Anderson, G. Suranyi, and G. H. Beaton
  • Ascorbic acid for the common cold. A prophylactic and therapeutic trial. JAMA. 1975 Mar 10;231(10):1038-42. Karlowski TR, Chalmers TC, Frenkel LD, Kapikian AZ, Lewis TL, Lynch JM.
  • A randomized controlled trial of the therapeutic effect of vitamin C in the common cold. Practitioner. 1977 Jan;218(1303):133-7. Elwood PC, Hughes SJ, Leger AS.
  • A trial of ascorbic acid in the treatment of the common cold. Br J Prev Soc Med. 1977 Sep; 31(3): 189–191. D A Tyrrell, J W Craig, T W Meada, and T White


Decide for Yourself

 I still remember the days when a cold would make my life miserable several times a year. 

I remember holding my children when they were little and being afraid of them sneezing at my face.

No matter what I did before and after the "incident", I would still get sick. 

But then I started taking enough vitamin C every day. I learned my body signs and the early symptoms of a cold.  

So today. at the very first sign of a cold, I follow this "vitamin C common cold" plan:

  1. Take large enough vitamin C doses. 
  2. Repeat doses frequently throughout the day
  3. Once the cold symptoms stop, go back to the maintenance dose

What are the first signs of a cold? It could be a sore or scratchy throat, a sneeze, a body chill, stinging eyes, among others.

The results?

The last time a cold made my life miserable was several years ago. 

Do I still get colds? Of course I do. I know because I notice the first symptoms. 

But the symptoms don’t last more than one day. And that day I am fully functional. 

A cold to me now is no worse than a headache. I know it will be gone in a few hours if I take enough vitamin C in frequent enough doses. 

For me, that’s at least 3 grams of vitamin C every hour, until I have no symptoms. Usually after 4 to 6 doses I am back to normal. That’s besides my daily maintenance dose, 4 grams in the morning and 4 grams at night.

Leave your comments below and let me know what you think. Also, don't forget to subscribe to our blog... and find best vitamin C supplements to help you stop the common cold on its tracks. 



 


Sources

  • Hickey S., Roberts H. (2004) Ascorbate, The Science of Vitamin C
  • Stone, I. (1972) The Healing Factor, Vitamin C Against Disease
  • Cab direct - Vitamin C in the prevention of Colds. Markwell, N.W. 
  • Semantic Scholar -  Massive doses of vitamin C and the virus diseases. F R Klenner
  • NIH - The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections. Gorton HC, Jarvis K.
  • Semantic Scholar - Preventing the common cold with a vitamin C supplement: A double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. Michael Van Straten, Peter D Josling

By Arturo Galindo
Certified Nutritional Therapist

I have used vitamin C and nutrition for over 10 years to end my chronic diseases and help my family stay healthy. Learn about our story.

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