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Ask the Expert: Can Vitamin C Cure Colds?

Clinical pharmacist Rachel Gan reveals the facts on whether vitamin C is effective against colds.

Question:

Can vitamin C cure colds? Whenever I’m having a sore throat or the sniffles, my mother and friends will ask me to take more vitamin C. But is this scientifically proven to work? 

Answer:

Vitamin C is a crucial vitamin and antioxidant for our body functions such as maintenance of bone, muscle and blood vessels. It helps in wound healing, playing a role in the formation of collagen and enhances the absorption of iron for our body.

We can obtain vitamin C from natural sources such as vegetables and fruits, especially for citrus fruit like oranges. It is also available in dietary supplement form like pills, chewable and effervescent tablets.

In the market, vitamin C is available in a variety of strengths from 30mg to 1,000mg. However, the recommended daily allowance is only 90mg for men and 75mg for women. High doses of vitamin C (greater than 2000mg per day) might not provide any additional benefit and may cause kidney stones, nausea and diarrhoea.

Vitamin C has always been recommended to prevent cold and flu symptoms. However, to what extent is this true?

Despite many years of studies conducted worldwide, there are no consistent results to support its use to treat or prevent cold and flu symptoms. However, in a study done in 2007, scientists found that while vitamin C could not treat or prevent cold, it could reduce the frequency, severity, or duration.

The effects of vitamin C also depend on the timing of vitamin C consumption. Following 60 years of clinical studies, vitamin C has been found to not make a difference to cold and flu symptoms after a cold has started. However, it helps to shorten the days of cold by 8% in adults and 14% in children when it is consumed daily.

In conclusion, vitamin C does not make a difference in preventing or treating cold and flu symptoms but it helps to shorten the days of cold and flu. In addition to that, it might help prevent or delay the development of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases in which its antioxidant properties plays a vital role. As long as its dose is within safe recommended daily allowances, there is no harm taking vitamin C supplements for those could not obtain vitamin C from natural sources.

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Ask the Expert is where we answer questions on all aspects of your health and wellness. Send in your health-related questions to expert@healthworks.my.

 

Contributed by: Rachel Gan MPharm (UK), RPH, MMPS, Clinical pharmacist, proprietor of Alive Pharmacy Sdn Bhd
Rachel Gan is a registered pharmacist with over five years of experience in both community and hospital settings in the UK and Malaysia. Trained as a pharmacist in the UK, she strongly believes in the importance of patient education and counselling. She believes if patients are well-informed and understand their health conditions, the results of therapy will be greatly enhanced. She is the proprietor of ALIVE PHARMACY in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam.

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