Cold season is here: Are extra vitamin D and C helpful to get you through? Nope.

Two news stories are out today regarding vitamins supposedly used to fight off or get rid of the common cold. How do they fare? Not well.

‘No proof’ vitamin D stops colds

Scientists say they can find no convincing evidence to show that taking vitamin D supplements will fend off a cold.

A New Zealand team did the “gold standard” of tests – a randomised placebo-controlled trial – to see what impact the supplements would have.

The 161 people who took daily vitamin D for 18 months caught as many colds as the 161 who took fake pills.

The study was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But a leading UK cold expert said vitamin D was useful.

Prof Ronald Eccles, of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, said it can give the immune system a much-needed boost during winter when vitamin D reserves may be low.

Supplements do not work for everybody because people’s immune systems are different”

“There is sufficient information to indicate that vitamin D is a vital vitamin for the immune system.

“Supplementation might help to support the immune system over the winter when we are short of vitamin D.”

Eh, I’m highly skeptical of “boosting” immune system claims and “supplements support the immune system”. Sure, in the winter, we get less sun and may be Vitamin D deficient but I am unclear how this affects the immune system. No supplement, not even echinacea, as this doctor suggests, has been shown to do anything convincing.

Then, there is this old clunker about vitamin C. It’s not citing new studies but an old one that pretty much says extra C is a waste.

Vitamin C may shorten cold, not stop it

Myth: Vitamin C prevents the common cold.

Fact: After decades and dozens of studies, it appears the idea that vitamin C prevents colds is just an old wives’ tale. But there is some evidence that high doses of the vitamin, which is found in citrus fruit and other produce, may slightly shorten the length of a cold.

The conclusions come from a 2004 study by researchers at Australia’s National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health who reviewed more than 30 published trials investigating vitamin C’s ability to prevent and treat the cold.

Combined, the studies involved more than 10,000 participants. The reviewers determined that people taking vitamin C daily, in doses as high as 1 gram, caught roughly the same number of colds as people who were not taking extra vitamin C.

This myth is SOOOO prevalent. Everyone’s parents believe this stuff and chow down on the C supplements and extra juice. It can’t hurt you, really, but it’s a waste. Measuring symptoms of the cold are so subjective. And, the results showed that the shortening of these symptoms were basically not signficant to justify the extra work.

The typical discussions around common colds is chock full of anecdotes of “This totally works for me” from homeopathic nothing meds to zinc supplments or extra sleep. Does anything work? It seems not, the cold just needs to run its miserable course and we can only do our best to deal with the symptoms and not get run-down so that it doesn’t turn into secondary infections.

Read this: Treating the Common Cold

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  9 comments for “Cold season is here: Are extra vitamin D and C helpful to get you through? Nope.

  1. One Eyed Jack
    October 3, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    Cartoons, a warm blanket, chicken soup, and fruit juice with a bendy straw.

    OK, it doesn’t do anything to speed your recovery, but it was the best thing about having a cold as a kid. I’d curl up on the couch with a blanket, turn on some cartoons, and my mother would bring me chicken soup and fruit juice with a bendy straw. The bendy part is really important. Juice doesn’t taste half as good through an old, boring, straight straw. ;)

    • LovleAnjel
      October 3, 2012 at 11:13 AM

      The bendy straw provides the torque necessary to energize the juice at the quantum level.

  2. Tombolian
    October 3, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Regarding the comment “Everyone’s parents believe this stuff and chow down on the C supplements and extra juice. It can’t hurt you, really, but it’s a waste.”

    Basically true (from my 2 minute google search). From http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/effects-of-taking-too-many-vitamins, it states “For instance, too much vitamin C or zinc could cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.” All things that will make you feel unpleasant, but as you stated, it can’t really hurt you.

  3. October 3, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    I love making spicy hot and sour soup when my boyfriend or I have a cold! I make a vegetarianized version of a basic recipe like this:
    http://www.grouprecipes.com/57948/hot-and-sour-soup.html

    The hot temperature and hot spices make us feel all warm and cozy and we get good nutrition from the tofu, egg, and mushrooms.

    • Chris
      October 5, 2012 at 1:20 PM

      I don’t want to cook when I have a cold. Fortunately there is Chinese restaurant one block from where I live that makes a very good hot and sour soup.

  4. Zone
    October 3, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    I take issue with the statement in the 2nd article that “the idea that vitamin C prevents colds is just an old wives’ tale.” It is, in fact, an old nobel laureate’s tale.

    Linus Pauling remains the only person to be awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes (chemistry and peace), yet he seems to have been grossly mistaken on the issue of high-dose vitamin C and health. His 1970 book, Vitamin C and the Common Cold, popularized the idea of C as a cold cure and probably helped launch the vitamin and supplement industry.

    Even though the scientific community has concluded that taking vitamin C supplements has little or no affect on the common cold, changing public perception is not as easy. In the US we spend more than $3 billion annually for over the counter cold remedies. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

  5. Randy
    October 4, 2012 at 1:44 AM

    My physician has recommended I take 2000 IU of Vitamin D, to maintain strong bones (nothing to do with colds).

    This is the only use of any vitamin that I haven’t seen debunked yet. Hopefully I’m not wasting my money.

  6. JB
    October 4, 2012 at 3:17 AM

    When I read about Linus Pauling’s recommendations on taking mega doses of Vitamin C, I began taking them. I trusted Pauling, after all, he had prevented me and countless others from getting Polio. Prior to 1970, I caught a disabling cold every 3 to 4 months which laid me up for a week. After starting to take C, I would catch a minor cold about once a year. Lately, I’ve been doing better. I haven’t had a cold for 5 years. And I’ve never had the flu. I’m 68 years old and I don’t get flu shots. I realize that in spite of my personal story, I am not providing any evidence that the cause of my cold-less existance is due to Vitamin C. It may be that my immune system somehow guards me against colds and the flu. But as long as the C doesn’t hurt me I’ll keep taking it.

    • Chris
      October 5, 2012 at 1:23 PM

      Linus Pauling was a chemist, he did work in biology but not vaccines. You must be thinking of Jonas Salk.

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