What if we didn’t have to think of fall and winter as cold and flu season? If we could make our incidence of colds and flus the same year around? We all know the age-old adage that Vitamin C is the key nutrient for prevention of the common cold- but what does the science say? Is there a science, a formula to taking Vitamin C in order to prevent or decrease the duration of colds and flus? Well, we dug into the research and it turns out there is.
Typically speaking, there’s an increase in the incidences of colds and flus in the cooler months because pathogens can live outside the body longer. The colder weather also provides the optimal environment for pathogenic organisms to proliferate, meaning there is more of them. Although bacteria and viruses cause us to experience symptoms- it is up to our immune system and the internal environment of the body that determines if we notice the symptoms, how severe they are and how long they last for. There are myriad factors that influence the body’s susceptibility too seasonal colds and plasma Vitamin C concentrations is one of them.
The Science of Supplementing Vitamin C
The body fights off hundreds of pathogens a day, and since Vitamin C is crucial for immune function it gets used up rapidly. When it comes to supplementing Vitamin C for the common cold the research is mixed and through various meta-analysis (the gold standard of compiled research), that took into account over 15,000 people- two key differences were found as to why this may be. They are dose and duration.
Dosing and Duration of Vitamin C
One analysis found that those who supplemented with higher doses of Vitamin C at 2g (2000mg) during a cold saw greater benefit than those who took 1g (1000mg) a day during an active cold. On average, they saw a 21% decrease in cold duration in those who took 2g and a 6% reduction in individuals who took 1g, vs those who didn’t take a Vitamin C supplement.
It has been shown that those who supplement Vitamin C at doses of 200mg-2000mg on a daily basis have a reduction in the occurrence of colds. While there is not concrete evidence, it is hypothesized that those who take higher doses have a greater reduction in incidence.
Many earlier studies done on vitamin C used low dose Vitamin C, ranging from 200mg-800mg. The current science, based on an accumulation of all the literature currently out there suggests that a dose of 1-3g daily and up to 6g at the onset of symptoms is the ideal amount of Vitamin C to shorten the duration of a cold and reduce the severity of symptoms.
Why we Need More Vitamin C During a Cold
There are two things to consider when we look at why such a high dose is needed. First, Vitamin C is needed for myriad functions in the body that don’t involve the immune system. This means that while a good percent of Vitamin C is allocated to immunity, it needs to be distributed to other tissues and systems as well. This explains why saturated blood levels are beneficial.
Second, the stress response eats up Vitamin C. Pathogens and being sick are stresses to the body. Therefore, when we are fighting an infection, the immune system and stress response both require extra Vitamin C to maintain homeostasis and fight off the foreign invaders.
Another factor to consider is the poor bioavailability of Vitamin C. Conventional supplements yield an absorption rate of less than 20%. Due to this, those taking lower doses may not see a benefit because their plasma levels are not increasing. Therefore, a key factor is getting bioavailable vitamin C such as Lypo-Spheric® or dosing vitamin C throughout the day to get the most benefit.
To summarize, taking Vitamin C daily can help reduce the likelihood of getting a cold and when increased at the first sign of symptoms, Vitamin C has statistically been shown to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Each packet of Lypo-Spheric® Vitamin C has 1000mg of bioavailable vitamin C!
Research shows no adverse effects of high dose vitamin C up to 10g. However, always check with your health care provider to determine what dose is safe based on your individual biochemistry.
Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin