Friday Fact or Fiction: Vitamin C Helps Cure Colds


Verdict: FICTION

Even though it's not exactly flu or cold season, it's happening folks. People are getting sick. If you get sick, and decide to head out, you're likely to hear plenty of wonderful at-home remedies from concerned bystanders. One of the most common is the belief that drinking orange juice and eating citrus fruits will cure a cold because of the vitamin C. It's understandable how one would draw this conclusion, but it's just not true.

vitamin c

The whole idea of vitamin C curing the cold started with a book written in 1970 called Vitamin C and the Common Cold by Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist. The emergence of the book popularized the idea which is most likely just an old wives tale. It was later revealed that there was very little real scientific evidence behind the theory.

Science has come a long way since 1970. Today, it is recommended that we eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day to get the recommended allowance of Vitamin C without supplementation. Health benefits of vitamin C may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling. Athletes such as marathon runners are 50% less likely to catch a cold if they supplement with a daily dose of vitamin C. However, multiple studies over the years have shown that once you have a cold, Vitamin C has little to no effect. It does not lessen the symptoms or shorten the duration of a cold. In fact, the acidic nature of citrus foods and juices can actually make a sore throat worse.

If you want to get technical, a cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, mostly the nose, throat, and sinuses. Colds can be caused by over 100 different viruses. They are simple afflictions, but normally very contagious. There is actually no "cure" for the common cold, though cold medicines improve symptoms. Rest is also recommended and has proven effective in most cases. Some other things you can do to give yourself some relief are to increase your intake of liquids, completely stop smoking because that can make your sore throat and cough worse, use a vaporizer or humidifier to increase humidity and reduce irritation to your nose and throat and dress appropriately for the weather. Though there is no scientific proof that being cold will make your symptoms worse, it will not help.

According to, research is still ongoing regarding the effectiveness of vitamin C in prevention or treatment of colds. They say that after 30 clinical trials including over 10,000 participants, no significant reduction in the risk of developing colds was seen and there was no difference in symptom severity. Basically, if you have a cold, vitamin C won't help you get better. More or less you just have to ride it out. Do your best to keep yourself comfortable and treat your body well while it rests and recovers.