It’s cold and windy, you have the sniffles and think you might be coming down with a cold or even worse, the flu. If you’re worried about contracting the flu or the coronavirus should you take extra Vitamin C?
There have been no studies that show the Vitamin C prevents the Flu or any other flu virus, shortens its duration or makes the illness milder. However, what Vitamin C does do is strengthen the immune system. Since the immune system is how the body fights off any virus, maintaining a strong immune system makes sense. Vitamin C boosts the production of white blood cells, antibodies and interferon, all of which are critical to fighting the Flu and lots of other illnesses.
Keep in mind that most drug studies are conducted by pharmaceutical companies with the idea that if the drug is successful the drug company can patent the drug and make a nice profit. Vitamin C can’t be patented, so there isn’t much of an incentive for the studies about its effectiveness to be completed.
Vitamin C is found naturally in many foods such as oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, and leafy greens. One of the best sources of Vitamin C is kiwi fruit. One small kiwi fruit has twice the Vitamin C as a medium orange. Many foods are fortified with Vitamin C, and of course it’s available as a supplement.
Since the vitamin is water soluble it is not stored in the body. Any excess over what the body requires for that day is excreted. However any substance can be toxic if too much is taken at any one time, even water. For example: drinking extreme amounts of water can throw off the electrolyte balance of the body.
How much vitamin C is recommended? 60 mg is the recommended amount to take daily. However the body’s requirement varies depending on your age, activity level, and exposure. For example, people under stress, and smokers, require more. Many people believe that 500 mg is the optimum dosage. An orange has 70 mg of vitamin C. It would be a challenge to consume 500 mg just through foods. A 500 mg dosage means eating six oranges.
While vitamin C hasn’t been shown to prevent the flu, it’s still a good idea to make sure you and your family get enough through diet and supplements during the flu season. It makes sense to increase your level of vitamin C a few weeks before flu season and continue for a few weeks after flu season. That’s approximately the winter months with a couple of weeks on either side.