Can taking extra vitamin C help ward off the common cold? Researchers and doctors are divided on this issue, but many people claim that taking daily vitamin C supplements provides protection against cold and flu viruses.

Several studies have been conducted to try to determine if any link exists between vitamin C and the common cold. Recently, researchers compiled and analyzed data from many of these studies. They found that while vitamin C did not seem to prevent people from catching colds, people who took vitamin C sometimes had milder symptoms and a shorter duration of illness. One interesting finding of vitamin C studies is that soldiers, skiers, and marathon runners who took vitamin C supplements reduced their risk of catching the common cold by nearly half.

Few would debate the necessity of vitamin C in our diets. Vitamin C helps repair tissue, produce collagen, and heal wounds. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant that plays a major role in immune system functioning. Most doctors recommend 200 mg of vitamin C as a safe, effective dose. This amount can be obtained through eating six or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, fortified juice, leafy greens, strawberries, broccoli, baked potatoes, and spinach. Vitamin C supplements are inexpensive and widely available.

Taking mega doses is unlikely to help you; excess vitamin C is eliminated through the urine. Very large doses of vitamin C may lead to nausea and diarrhea.

Marlene Veloso