Evidence for vitamin C supplements

vitamin-CMany people take vitamin C supplements in the belief they will:

  • prevent or reduce the frequency of the common cold, or
  • lessen the duration and severity of the common cold.

But is there any evidence that vitamin C supplements work?

In Jan 2013 the Cochrane Collaboration* published online the results of a meta-analysis of twenty-nine vitamin C supplement trials involving a total of 11,306 participants. The only trials included were those using at least 0.2 g of vitamin C per day, and the majority were randomised, double-blind trials.

The results?

  • Regular use of vitamin C supplements does not reduce the incidence of colds in the general population.
  • Regular use of vitamin C may be useful for people exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise such as marathon running or skiing.
  • Regular use of vitamin C supplements has a modest but consistent effect in reducing the duration of common cold symptoms. (Average 8%)
  • The published trials have not reported adverse effects of vitamin C.

So for the vast majority of the population, if you regularly take at least two 1000mg tablets of vitamin C per day you will still get the same number of colds, but they will last for about 6½ days instead of 7.

At $0.20 per 1000mg tablet, the cost for a family of four would be almost $600 per year.

Click here to see the Cochrane Collaboration report abstract.

*Who is the Cochrane Collaboration? An organisation that does systematic reviews of all studies on particular subjects to produce what are called meta-studies.

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