The antioxidant, antihistamine, and chemotactic properties of vitamin C provide the theoretical basis linking vitamin C supplementation to combating the common cold; yet, the clinical evidence is mixed. To date, vitamin C intervention trials have not systematically recorded cold symptoms daily or looked at fluctuations in plasma histamine over an extended period. Also, trials have not been conducted in individuals with marginal vitamin C status. This study examined the impact of vitamin C supplementation during cold season on specific cold symptoms in a population with low plasma vitamin C concentrations. Healthy young males who were not regular smokers or training for competitive sports between the ages of 18 and 35 with below average plasma vitamin C concentrations were stratified by age, body mass index, and vitamin C status into two groups: VTC (500 mg vitamin C capsule ingested twice daily) or CON (placebo capsule ingested twice daily). Participants were instructed to fill out the validated Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey-21 daily for 8 weeks. Blood was sampled at trial weeks 0, 4, and 8. Plasma vitamin C concentrations were significantly different by groups at study week 4 and 8. Plasma histamine decreased 4.2% in the VTC group and increased 17.4% in the CON group between study weeks 0 and 8, but these differences were not statistically significant (p>0.05). Total cold symptom scores averaged 43±15 for the VTC group compared to 148±36 for the CON group, a 244% increase in symptoms for CON participants versus VTC participants (p=0.014). Additionally, recorded symptom severity and functional impairment scores were lower in the VCT group than the CON group (p=0.031 and 0.058, respectively). Global perception of sickness was 65% lower in the VTC group compared to the CON group (p=0.022). These results suggest that 1000 mg of vitamin C in a divided dose daily may lower common cold symptoms, cold symptom severity, and the perception of sickness. More research is needed to corroborate these findings.
- Vitamin C and treating the common cold
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