Is Vitamin C effective for Colds and Flus

Is Vitamin C effective for the Cold and Flu?

An investigation into the hype and many misconceptions

By Jeremy Brown, Naturopath 

(Adv. Dip. Nat.)

Intro

Picture it now, your throat is tickling, your nose is congested and you feel weak. You just got off the phone to your Boss and told them that you won’t be coming in today. Thank you for understanding sir, and no, your not sure if you’ll be in tomorrow. But what if you could increase your chances of getting better? What if all the hype about Vitamin C was real? Or is it just propaganda from the Vitamin Industry? This week we will be investigating these claims from the best available evidence.

Vitamin C’s History

Although Vitamin and minerals are a relatively new discovery in Natural Medicine, when compared to say, Herbal Medicine, Vitamin C’s History is a little longer. Vitamin C deficiency was known for centuries, as scurvy, a potentially fatal condition feared by men at sea who only lived on biscuits and dried meat. Citrus fruits such as oranges were then shown to prevent scurvy, however it was not until 1928 that Vitamin C was isolated and produced on mass scale.

Vitamin C’s function in the body

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for human beings, and being essential, is required to be taken in from diet or supplementation. We are one of the few animals that cannot make Vitamin C ourselves. Once consumed, Vitamin C is found in its greatest levels in the adrenal glands, the white blood cells (used by the immune system to fight infection), skeletal muscles, the brain and the pituitary gland. 

Main actions:

Vitamin C has dozens of actions including:

-Energy release from fatty acids

-Metabolism of cholesterol

-Formation of thyroid function

-Anti-cancer (controversial) 

However, the focus of this article will be on what Vitamin C is most famous for:

-An Immunostimulant

How does Vitamin C work at treating the Cold and Flu?

Vitamin C favorably modulates Lymphocytes and phagocytes, Natural Killer cells (white blood cells) and can influence cytokine synthesis (related to inflammation??) under certain situations according to Hender & Rovik 2001. In high doses, it is a potent immunomodulator (balances the immune system).  We also know that Vitamin C absorption increases in the gut when you have a common cold.

Modern Clinical Studies

In light of these, many clinical studies have been performed. However, there are many conflicting results, and for some physicians, the jury is out. A Cochrane review (a major medical review) involving over 11,000 patients found that regular ingestion of Vitamin C in doses of 200mg did not reduce the incidence of the common cold, however, a subgroup of marathon runners, skiers and soldiers did find protective effects that where significant (Douglas et al 2004).  Although studies found no benefit at 8gms at the onset of symptoms, two studies found supplementation created benefit after 5 days. Further, research has shown that supplementation at doses of 1-2gms at the onset of symptoms, reduces the duration of symptoms by approximately half a day. Still, other studies confirm that doses at this range are in fact effective (Braun and Cohen 2012. 

Prevention

While prevention is better than cure, studies have shown significant benefits at reducing the risk of the common cold, although the evidence is mixed. 

The Bottom Line

It appears that the evidence for Vitamin C’s use in the body, various studies and reviews shows Vitamin C is helpful during the Common Cold and Flu, but much more high quality research is needed. It is also of particular use for stressed individuals, predominantly athletes. 

“Quote review”

Differences between the major forms of Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid – The major dietary form of Vitamin C and is acidic in nature, and because of this, some of my patients with poor Gut function, respond poorly to this.

Mineral ascorbates: Including Calcium ascorbate, and also known as non-acidic Vitamin C. These are less irritating to the Gut. 

Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids – Many Bioflavonoids are antioxidant substances found in citrus fruit alongside Vitamin C. It is thought that Bioflavonoids increase Vitamin’s C bioavailability (define?) in the body. 

Food sources

These include, but are not limited to:

-Blackcurrants

-Citrus fruits such as oranges

-Red and Green peppers

-Tomato juice

Please note that 100% of Vitamin C is destroyed during the cooking process and is also sensitive to heat, light and oxygen exposure. 

Dosage Requirements according to clinical studies

-1-2 grams per day. It is best taken in divided doses and preferably 500mg four times per day.

Diet and lifestyle

It is important to stop when you are suffering from an infection. The “solider on” myth is just that, a myth played by the industry. You cannot simply take a pill, either Vitamin C, Paracetamol or a remedy and simply go on like nothing happened. Rest, and you will have the best fighting chance at getting better sooner.

Professional Help

A Professional Naturopath can prescribe a Practitioner Quality supplement, blend some herbs and advise you what to eat when suffering an infection. Practitioners, such as myself are able to take quick consultations and offer advice in clinic to speed up your recovery. If this is of interest to you, click here. 

Final:

An investigation into the hype and misconceptions

By Jeremy Brown, Naturopath

(Adv. Dip. Nat.)

Intro

Picture it now, your throat is tickling, your nose is congested and you feel weak. You just got off the phone to your Boss and told them that you won’t be coming in today. Thank you for understanding sir, and no, you’re not sure if you’ll be in tomorrow. But what if you could increase your chances of getting better? What if all the hype about Vitamin C was real? Or is it just propaganda from the Vitamin Industry? This week we will be investigating these claims from the best available evidence.

Vitamin C’s History

Although Vitamin and minerals are a relatively new discovery in Natural Medicine, when compared to say, Herbal Medicine, Vitamin C’s History is a little longer. Vitamin C deficiency was known for centuries as scurvy, a potentially fatal condition feared by men at sea who only lived on biscuits and dried meat. Citrus fruits such as oranges were then shown to prevent scurvy, however it was not until 1928 that Vitamin C was isolated and produced on mass scale.

Vitamin C’s function in the body

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for human beings, and being essential, is required to be taken in from diet or supplementation. We are one of the few animals that cannot make Vitamin C ourselves. Once consumed, Vitamin C is found in its greatest levels in the adrenal glands, the white blood cells (used by the immune system to fight infection), skeletal muscles, the brain and the pituitary gland.

Main actions

-Energy release from fatty acids

-Metabolism of cholesterol

-Formation of thyroid function

-Anti-cancer (controversial)

-An Immunostimulant

-Among others

How does Vitamin C work at treating the Cold and Flu?

Vitamin C favorably modulates Lymphocytes and phagocytes, Natural Killer cells (white blood cells) and can influence cytokine synthesis (related to inflammation) under certain situations. In high doses, it is a potent immunomodulator (balances the immune system).  We also know that Vitamin C absorption increases in the gut when you have a common cold.

Modern Clinical Studies

In light of these, many clinical studies have been performed. However there are many conflicting results, and for some physicians, the jury is out. A Cochrane review (a major medical review) involving over 11,000 patients found that regular ingestion of Vitamin C in doses of 200mg did not reduce the incidence of the common cold. However, a subgroup of marathon runners, skiers and soldiers did find protective effects that was significant (Douglas et al 2004).  Although studies found no benefit at 8gms at the onset of symptoms, two studies found supplementation created benefit after 5 days. Furthermore, research has shown that supplementation at doses of 1-2gms at the onset of symptoms, reduces the duration of symptoms by approximately half a day. Still, other studies confirm that doses at this range are in fact effective (Braun and Cohen 2012).

Prevention

Prevention is better than cure. Studies have shown significant benefits at reducing the risk of the common cold, although the evidence is mixed.

The Bottom Line

It appears that the evidence for Vitamin C’s use in the body, various studies and reviews shows Vitamin C is helpful during the Common Cold and Flu, but much more high quality research is needed. It is also of particular use for stressed individuals, predominantly athletes.

Related content: Does Echinacea help with Influenza? 

Differences between the major forms of Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid – The major dietary form of Vitamin C and is acidic in nature, and because of this, some of my patients with poor Gut function, respond poorly to this.

Mineral ascorbates: Including Calcium ascorbate, and also known as non-acidic Vitamin C. These are less irritating to the Gut.

Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids – Many Bioflavonoids are antioxidant substances found in citrus fruit alongside Vitamin C. It is thought that Bioflavonoids increase Vitamin’s C bioavailability (availability to the target tissue).

Food sources

These include, but are not limited to:

-Blackcurrants

-Citrus fruits such as oranges

-Red and Green peppers

-Tomato juice

Please note that 100% of Vitamin C is destroyed during the cooking process and is also sensitive to heat, light and oxygen exposure.

Dosage Requirements according to clinical studies

-1-2 grams per day. It is best taken in divided doses and preferably 500mg four times per day.

Diet and lifestyle

It is important to stop when you are suffering from an infection. The “solider on” myth is just that, a myth that is played by industry. You cannot simply take a pill, either Vitamin C, Paracetamol and simply go on like nothing happened. Rest, and you will have the best fighting chance at getting better sooner.

Professional Help

A Professional Naturopath can prescribe a Practitioner Quality supplement, blend some herbs and advise you what to eat when suffering an infection. Practitioners, such as myself, are able to take quick consultations and offer advice in clinic to speed up your recovery.

If this is of interest to you, click here.

Yours in health,

Jeremy Brown

Naturopathic practitioner and principal at Brown’s Wellbeing Centre.

www.brownswellbeingcentre.com.au

www.facebook.com/brownswellbeingcentre

www.twitter.com/jbrown_nat

Supporting Evidence: 

Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2010). Herbs & natural supplements. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.

Hechtman, L. (2012). Clinical naturopathic medicine. Sydney, Australia: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier Australia.

*Please note that advice is of a general nature and does not replace the advice of a health professional.

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