Can vitamin C get rid of a cold?

If you are anything like me, you grew up believing that you should take vitamin C supplements whenever you were feeling a bit under the weather, in order to ward off coughs, colds and the like. However, we are often hearing stories in the news about this study and that study, contradicting this and saying that vitamin C doesn’t really have any special powers in this regard at all and that all we are doing by taking it when we feel unwell is increasing the value of our urine.

As you may know, I am a big fan of vitamin C for many other reasons than its impact on immunity. A couple of years back I did a trial of a brand called Altrient and saw impressive improvements in skin elasticity and hydration, as well as my collagen levels.

But I was still disappointed that my long-held beliefs about its immune boosting capabilities had been squashed. Until I spoke to one of the world’s leading experts on vitamin C, Dr Thomas Levy. Dr Levy has been studying vitamin D for more than 25 years and here’s what he had to say on the topic…

Does vitamin C prevent or shorten the duration of a cold?

Alice Hart-Davis: Dr Levy, I wanted to ask, why there’s always news stories, certainly in the UK press, saying that studies show that taking vitamin C doesn’t shorten the duration of a cold, which is the main thing that seems to get studied. Is that simply because the researchers aren’t using enough of the stuff to make a difference? 

Dr Thomas Levy: In a nutshell, there’s nothing that vitamin C doesn’t make better. I mean some things will be dramatic, some things will be minimal, that usually has to do with bioavailability of the vitamin C and how well it gets to a certain area, but there is absolutely nothing that vitamin C does not improve.

[In terms of the news stories and studies] it’s several factors. One factor is complete ignorance and another factor is that there’s more politics in medicine than there are in politics. Medicine is designed to do one thing and that is generate money. When you bring in things that cost pennies and generate far less money, you are never going to get the red carpet rolled out for it, even if it’s a phenomenal cure.

Now vitamin C costs more than pennies but it’s vastly less expensive than just about any pharmaceutical agent you can get. Those stories continue to be generated out of ignorance and lack of desire to find out the truth and the ability to just arbitrarily support the pharmaceutical and hospital industry.

What dose of vitamin C should you take if you are trying to warn off a cold?

AHD: Ok. So, if somebody wants to, if they feel they are getting a cold or flu or, heaven forbid at the moment Covid-19, what sort of dose should they be looking at taking of vitamin C to try and head it off?

TL: It depends on what type of vitamin C you have and what you are trying to do. If you are a healthy person and you are doing everything well, you don’t have to compulsively take regular vitamin C four times a day, you could take it probably once a day or at the very least morning and evening, to give yourself coverage. Now, if you are a more sickly person, then you would want to go straight to a higher maintenance area.

Prevention would be a gram, two or three times a day, while treatment would be two or three grams, three or four times a day. You’ll want to get yourself up into the six to 10g a day range.

It’s not rocket science and it’s not etched on stone. I find (and I’ve consistently found) that, before people start taking vitamin C, they have a diminished health intuition. When they start taking vitamin C most of them start feeling a little bit better than they have ever felt before and, because of that, when they get a viral challenge or they wake up and they’re just not in that super tip-top shape, they develop an intuition that, “I need some more”. In those circumstances, they’ll dose up and they’ll be fine. So, in every sense of the word, I find vitamin C helps hone your health intuition.

 Now that, in many cases, vitamin C will do it all by itself, but there’s no reason not to be taking other supportive supplements at the same time, primarily vitamin D, magnesium and zinc. So those need to be taken as well. The zinc is extremely important, we found out with Covid-19 that zinc inside the cell, basically stops the RNA transcriptase from replicating the viral genome and that just stops the replication right there. But zinc is not readily absorbed and taken into the cell until you take an ionophore quercetin or the prescription drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine because they help hold the zinc inside the cell.

AHD: How interesting. When I was doing this trial to see what difference it would make to my skin so for hydration, firmness and elasticity, I was taking 3g of liposomal Altrient every day. I backed down since then because I know from the studies that the company has done themselves that there wasn’t much difference in the benefits of having three a day versus two a day (simply for the skin. I will usually have one or maybe two but, if I were able to get on a plane if I am flying, I will take more as a sort of precaution. There was a week earlier in the year where all of us in the family started feeling really bizarre and we went through our remaining supplies of the stuff so fast I can’t tell you and then there were a few nasty weeks when it was very hard to get hold of Altrient because everybody had had the same idea!