vitamin c and the common cold

Vitamin C which is the most widely taken nutritional supplement is popularly known to help with the common cold. This assertion has been debated over the years all over the world. The connection between vitamin C and the common cold started from Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist who lived from 1901 to 1994. In 1970 he wrote the book "Vitamin C and the Common Cold," which popularized the notion that this particular vitamin could prevent the common cold. The book's main claim was that taking 1 gram (1,000 mg) of vitamin C daily would reduce the incidence of colds by 45% for most people, but that some persons might need much larger amounts. It recommended that if symptoms of a cold do start, one should take 500 or 1,000 mg every hour for several hours. Many concerned persons have wondered whether Pauling's advice was prudent, and millions have experimented upon themselves to see whether they could tell. Though it might work for some people, many others who take such large amounts of the vitamin would suffer chronic diarrhea.           

Deficiency of vitamin C causes scurvy. Scurvy leads to the formation of spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from all mucous membranes. The spots are most abundant on the thighs and legs, and a person with the ailment looks pale, feels depressed, and is partially immobilized.          

Oranges, lemon 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. However, studies have found that it may lower the risk of catching a cold among people whose bodies are under high physical stress such as athletes or soldiers. For the rest of us, however, that extra vitamin C is not going to do much. Some studies have also suggested that extra vitamin C may slightly reduce the severity of colds, but that it is not necessary to take the high dosages suggested by Pauling to achieve this result. Nor is there anything to be gained by taking vitamin supplements year-round in the hope of preventing colds. While the cold-killing effect may not exist, there is 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.            

It has also been shown that people consuming diets rich in vitamin C from natural foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are healthier and have lower mortality from a number of chronic illnesses. The richest natural sources are fruits and vegetables especially those of the citrus family such as oranges, tangerines etc. If one chooses to supplement with manufactured vitamin C when a cold strikes, there is no reason to take more than 250 mg per day. Supplementation with larger amounts of vitamin C has not been shown to be more effective, and it may cause diarrhea or have other adverse effects.


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