In the United States, five to 20 percent of Americans get flu every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). About 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu complications including high fever, dehydration and fatigue. More than a billion around the world catch the common cold every year.
Whenever the cold and flu season is peaked, people reach for vitamin C as the primary remedy. Others rely on it as a preventive measure. It was first used as cold treatment in the 1970s. Nowadays, it’s so popular that people seek this vitamin through food supplements, fortified juices, fruits and vegetables.
In fact, vitamin C is touted as the most famous nutrient. Ask anyone what vitamins they know and vitamin C will always be one of the top answers. Studies show that in this country, more than 40 percent of adults take vitamin C supplements. In other parts of the world, the rate is 25 percent.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, otherwise known as ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin and antioxidant needed by the body for the maintenance of muscles, blood vessels and bones. It also regulates the formation of collagen and the body’s absorption of iron, also an important nutrient.
It’s water-soluble so it can easily be excreted from the body if there is excess amount. Too bad though it cannot be manufactured by the human body. Humans along with chimps, bats, birds and guinea pigs are some of the few creatures that are not able to make their own vitamin C.
The good news is, aside from being widely manufactured in the form of supplements, it can also be found in vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, bell pepper, parsley, strawberries, lemon juice, papaya, mustard greens, cauliflower, kale, oranges and Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin C for Colds and Flu
For many years, this vitamin has been the subject of many studies. Researchers investigate how this vitamin can be a possible treatment or preventive measure for colds. A group of researchers reviewed 21 controlled trials that used one to eight grams of vitamin C per day.
Findings showed that people who took this amount of vitamin C had experienced a 23 percent decline in the duration of common cold as well as severity of the symptoms. The amount that can give such protection is still being probed but experts say that intake of one to three grams or 120 to 200 mg daily was enough to do the work.
In another study that reviewed 23 controlled trials indicated that vitamin C supplements provided more significant benefits for children than adults. This same study reported that two grams of vitamin a day were much more effective than one gram in decreasing duration of cold symptoms.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
For nonsmoking adults, the recommended daily amount is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. Smokers are advised to take in higher amount such as 125 mg for men and 110 mg for women. They need higher intake because smoking easily depletes stores of this vitamin. Pregnant women should strive to get 80 to 85 mg a day while nursing mothers should get 115 to 120 mg a day.
Other Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C has a multitude of other health benefits apart from being a remedy or preventive measure for colds and flu. It’s also powerful as an antioxidant. It efficiently protects the body from the cellular rust brought about by free radicals.
Free radicals are harmful elements produced by oxidative stress. This can lead to a variety of medical conditions include heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer like colon, esophagus, stomach, lung and mouth. Vitamin C also helps production of vitamin E, which is another potent antioxidant.
Many studies also show that vitamin can lower blood pressure. It also helps maintain proper dilation the blood vessels, which in turn can reduce the risk of heart failure, atherosclerosis and high cholesterol levels.
Moreover, this vitamin also significantly diminishes the level of lead in your system. People who live in urban areas suffer from lead toxicity that can negatively affect their mental and physical health. Children with high toxicity level are more prone to learning disabilities and developmental problems. Adults, on the other hand, are at increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage.
Whether it’s cold and flu season or not, it’s obvious that you’ll get lots of benefits from taking in vitamin C supplements. Be sure to eat a nutritionally balanced diet as well since food is still the best source of nutrients.