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Does vitamin C really cure colds?

Vitamin C (or L-ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin essential for the body, often indicated to treat colds or flu. But is this really the case?

Where do colds come from?

The common cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract (nasal passages and throat). Nearly a hundred viruses can cause colds.

The main family of viruses involved are the “rhinoviruses” or “nasal cavity viruses”. The common cold is a mildly contagious condition that nevertheless affects most people on average 2 to 3 times a year.

Indeed, rhinoviruses can persist for several hours outside the body and can therefore easily come into contact with the nasal passages. Contrary to popular belief, the spread of colds is not directly correlated with a drop in temperature. In fact, it is the increased tendency to frequent enclosed places in winter – and therefore more concentrated in individuals – which further justifies the spread of the virus.

What action does vitamin C have on colds?

Vitamin C is traditionally prescribed as an addition to treatment for colds or flu. But what role does vitamin C really play in the body's fight against this type of infection?

Studies indicate that in reality vitamin C only has a small effect on the risk of being infected with the common cold. On the other hand, a course of vitamin C would help to reduce the duration of the infection (around 1 to 1.5 days).

If supplementation occurs when the condition has already been declared, vitamin C will have little effect. On the other hand, as part of regular physical activity (especially outdoors), an intake of vitamin C can help to significantly reduce the incidence of colds.


Even if vitamin C cannot prevent colds or flu-like illness, it should not be neglected: it helps reduce the duration of these infections! A balanced diet rich in vitamin C as well as taking food supplements is therefore beneficial for the body, particularly during seasonal changes.

1.Anderson TW. Vitamin C and the common cold. J Med Soc NJ 1979;76:765-6

2. Douglas RM, Chalker EB, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2000;(2):CD000980.

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