When battling a common cold, many of us have been told to reach for the vitamin C. This can come from the fruits and vegetables of a regular diet, but in sickness circumstances we often grab the pill or powder mix-in form of this vitamin. Does it do any good? Can you really shorten a cold by ingesting more vitamin C?

BOGUS. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for a healthy body, which includes the immune system, but there is no evidence that a quick spike in vitamin C intake will help cure or even shorten the common cold. Why? Vitamin C cannot be produced by the body, so we must look to external sources in order to get our needs met. The thing is, you can get the recommended amount in just a handful of strawberries or an orange. There is no reason to add a vitamin C supplement! Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and it can’t be stored in the body. What does that mean? When you have an excess of Vitamin C, then it is flushed out in your urine.

Yep. That’s right – those vitamin C supplements that you’ve been taking are giving you only one thing: really expensive pee.

So… What does Vitamin C do?

Vitamin C is essential in the production of the protein collagen, which is found in your skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bones, and blood vessels. This is necessary to support the body tissues, heal wounds and keep your body healthy. It also helps reduce the toxicity of medications and chemicals in your body. It helps keep your immune system in tip-top shape, but not in the way that you think.

Are you shocked by these findings? Don’t feel bad, I was a little put out too. How did such a huge lie become so widely accepted?

Studies of Vitamin C, the immune system, and cold prevention have been done for years, but findings have always been inconsistent. In 2007 a study that covered research from the past 60 years found that, when taken after a cold starts, vitamin C doesn’t make a cold shorter or easier to manage. However, they did find that a daily dose of vitamin C did shorten cold duration. The media took this little discovery and made it headline news, creating the widely accepted theory that vitamin C could help you overcome a cold.

Unfortunately, the “discovery” was very VERY small. The average adult spends 12 days a year suffering from a cold. When taking vitamin C supplements every day, that adult would spend 11 days suffering from a cold instead of 12. There was a bigger difference in children, but not much. A child taking a daily dose of extra vitamin C would suffer from 24 days of cold symptoms a year rather than 28. This slight difference doesn’t seem like something to click your heels for and do a little jig.

What is the best way to overcome a cold, then?

Unfortunately, there aren’t any real shortcuts to help you get over a cold faster. The best thing to do is to wait it out and drink plenty of fluids. Get lots of rest, take medication to treat symptoms, and let the virus run its course. There may be a shortcut out there, but Vitamin C supplements aren’t going to do it for you. Good luck and get well soon!

Penelope is a content editor at firstmedicalproducts.com and writes regularly on various health, fitness, and wellness topics.