Can Vitamin C Prevent or Treat the Common Cold

Can Vitamin C Prevent or Treat the Common Cold

Can Vitamin C Prevent or Treat the Common Cold?

Can vitamin C prevent you from catching a cold? This is still an unsettled question, taking a vitamin C supplement seems to prevent athletes from catching a cold, but it will not protect nonathletes. However, taking a vitamin C supplement soon after catching a cold may alleviate cold symptoms and accelerate the recovery. The recommended daily dose is 1,000 mg of vitamin C. 

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy. As early as 3000 BCE, a scurvy epidemic was recorded in Egypt. In 1753, James Lind demonstrated experimentally that fruit consumption could alleviate scurvy in sailors during a long sea voyage. In 1854, the English court enacted laws stipulating that all sailors during long sea voyages be given a daily portion of fruits. In 1928, Albert Szent-Györgyi isolated a sixmember carbon compound from the adrenal gland, oranges, and cabbage. In 1932, his research group demonstrated that this water-soluble substance could cure scurvy, and they named it ascorbic acid. Szent-Györgyi was awarded the 1937 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions. 

Some mammals—such as monkeys, cows, sheep, and dogs—can produce vitamin C in the body. They do not have to rely on foods for vitamin C. Humans cannot produce vitamin C because we do not have an enzyme in the liver required for the de novo synthesis of vitamin C; thus, we need to acquire it from plant-based foods. 

Vitamin C is an electron donor, a chemical entity that donates electrons to another chemical entity. All functions of vitamin C in the body are related to this electron donor property. Vitamin C can donate electrons to at least 12 different enzymes that are responsible for many physiological functions. One of these enzymes is involved in the synthesis of collagen. Collagens are the major proteins in the skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels.

Vitamin C can also donate electrons to free radicals. After accepting electrons from vitamin C, free radicals are neutralized and can no longer harm the cell. Vitamin C protects DNA, proteins, and lipids in the cell from free radical–induced oxidative damage. Vitamin C participates in many other physiological functions, including accelerating wound healing, repairing and maintaining healthy bones and teeth, and enhancing iron absorption in the intestines.