Fact Or Fiction: Vitamin C Intake Prevents & Treats the Common Cold

It’s a common perception that regular or immediate intake of vitamin C in high doses can treat and prevent common colds. Read on to find out if the belief is fact or fiction.
Fact Or Fiction: Vitamin C Intake Prevents & Treats the Common Cold
Fact Or Fiction: Vitamin C Intake Prevents & Treats the Common Cold

Fact or Fiction: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the common cold? It’s probably a lemon or an orange. It has been embedded in our brains that vitamin C is good for preventing and treating colds.

Have a runny nose? Headache? Upset stomach? Or perhaps a scratchy throat? It’s nothing that chugging a bit of lemon juice can’t solve. That’s the reasoning of most people. People increase their intake of lemons and oranges during the winter or when they catch a cold because these fruits are rich in vitamin C.

Vitamin C has been shown to improve mood, boost immunity, and enhance skin and bone health. But there has been a recent surge in the use of vitamin C to prevent and treat colds. Find out if that’s fact or fiction.

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is also known as L-ascorbic acid. It is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for the well-being of the body. Vitamin C is readily excreted from the body through water so a daily intake of vitamin C is a must for everyone. Vitamin C is also a commonly occurring nutrient whose daily requirement can be fulfilled by a balanced diet alone. It was discovered in 1932, but even before that, citrus fruits, the biggest source of vitamin C, were used to treat diseases like scurvy.

Food Sources of Vitamin C

  • Citrus fruits (orange, lemon, kiwi)
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Green vegetables
  • Strawberries

Functions of Vitamin C

  • Vitamin C is vital for the proper functioning of the body. It plays many important roles. Some of them are listed below:
  • Protect cells and keep them healthy
  • Absorption of Iron
  • Maintain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones, tendons, and cartilage
  • Help with wound healing

Deficiency of Vitamin C

Although a deficiency of vitamin C is rare nowadays, it’s still prevalent among malnourished adults. The signs of vitamin C deficiency include:

  • Scurvy
  • Anaemia
  • Frequent bruising
  • Improper healing
  • Bleeding gums

Causes and Symptoms of the Common Cold

The common cold is mainly caused by rhinoviruses. There are around 160 varieties of rhinoviruses, and overall, there are at least 200 known viruses that cause colds. These continually evolve and mutate; that’s why you catch a cold every so often. Your immune system adapts to the virus, but the next time, a new variant comes to attack. Similarly, scientists are also having trouble developing a vaccine for the common cold.

Symptoms of Cold:

  • Runny nose & watery eyes
  • Sneezing & coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache

Flu, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and COVID-19 also have similar symptoms to the common cold. So we recommend that you do not self-diagnose unless you’re a certified medical professional yourself.

What is the Link Between Vitamin C and Common Cold?

The link between vitamin C and the common cold was first established in the 1970s by scientist and Nobel laureate Linus Pauling. He conducted numerous experiments on the benefits of high doses of vitamin C.

Pauling argued that high doses of vitamin C may also prevent many other diseases in addition to colds. However, Pauling’s studies didn’t yield conclusive results. Pauling wrote several books and scientific papers on the supposed miraculous effects of vitamin C. Many of his claims have been proven false in the years since or still remain unverified.

Several other studies on vitamin C and its connection to the common cold have taken place in modern times as well. In some trials, vitamin C supplementation reduced the duration of the common cold in a few subjects. But no study has ever conclusively proved that vitamin C prevents or treats colds in everyone.

Just like the duration, symptoms, and severity of colds vary among people, the effects of vitamin C also vary. Vitamin C can reduce the duration of colds in some people. It can also moderate the symptoms, aid in recovery, and help prevent colds in the long run for some people. But again, nothing has been scientifically proven yet, so it can’t be said for a fact that vitamin C is beneficial for everyone.


Even though there have been studies both proving vitamin C’s effectiveness in fighting the common cold and otherwise, the notion that vitamin C is the magical cure for preventing or treating the common cold is fiction. But there is no harm in marginally increasing your daily intake of vitamin C, as it does boost immunity and overall health, which in the long term will prevent many ailments.

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