The Vitamin C Myth You Should Stop Believing

We've probably all been in this position before: you start to get a scratchiness in your throat, feel a little congestion in your sinuses, and you begin to suspect a cold is coming on. When that happens, many of us will reach for an orange juice or another vitamin C-packed supplement in the hopes of heading off the oncoming cold. It might even be advice our mothers gave to us when we were growing up. But while we all know that vitamin C is very beneficial for a healthy immune system, does consuming an extra dose of the vitamin really help stop a cold in its tracks?

Unfortunately, it turns out the answer in most likely no. Eating more vitamin C when you feel the onset of an illness likely will not do anything to prevent it, according to research conducted on the common cold. In 29 studies of 11,306 people, researchers found that doses of over 200 mg of vitamin C did not prove to have a significant effect in preventing the participants from catching a cold, as Healthline reported. However, it is not all bad news. If you are already sick, consuming extra doses of the vitamin does help boost your immune system and may help your body fight off the cold more quickly.

Vitamin C can help reduce the severity and duration of the common cold

According to Healthline, a study conducted on marathon runners and skiers showed consuming vitamin C reduced the length of their cold by almost half. Adding more vitamin C to your diet has also been shown to help reduce the severity of the cold, making the unpleasant symptoms much more manageable. According to the journal Nutrients, vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps improve immune system functioning by simulating white blood cells and promoting the production of antibodies, which are essential to helping the body fight off illnesses. It also helps protect against cell breakdown, encourages the healthy growth of collagen and muscles, and helps the body absorb iron, another essential nutrient, per the Mayo Clinic. So while it may not be a magical preventative elixir, vitamin C is a very healthy nutrient that does help make colds shorter and the symptoms less intense.

The next time you start to feel that familiar uncomfortable tickle in your throat, know that the urge to take a vitamin C supplement or chug orange juice likely won't head off that impending cold. Instead, getting lots of rest and stocking up on cold medicine is probably your best bet. However, if you are already sick in bed, it certainly won't hurt to grab an orange and let that vitamin C do its immune system-boosting work.