Sometimes findings in science take us leaps and bounds beyond current knowledge; other times a “big discovery” is something your mother knew long before the scientific data was there to support it. A paper was recently published on one of those “Mom knew that” discoveries. Researchers found that a combination of vitamin C and zinc can be a safe and effective support for the common cold.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, plays a number of important roles in the body. One of its best known functions is as an antioxidant protecting cells- including immune cells- from damage by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules responsible for tissue damage and aging. They are generated from exposure to pollutants, toxins, and even by the body’s normal metabolism and production of hormones such as cortisol and progesterone. Vitamin C also enhances many areas of white blood cell function (the defenders of the body), supports skin and other physical barriers to infection, and exhibits specific antiviral effects. Zinc is crucial in both innate (non-specific) and adaptive (antigen specific) immune function and is important in antibody formation. Deficiencies in either nutrient can severely weaken immune function.
A review of 21 studies conducted between 1971 and 1988 showed that regular vitamin C intake at doses of 1,000 mg per day or more reduced the duration, severity and incidence of colds. A review of studies involving zinc showed that taking the mineral within 24 hours of symptom onset also reduced severity and duration of a cold, and when taken regularly for 5 months or more, zinc decreased incidence of colds, absenteeism from school, and antibiotic prescriptions in children.
The new paper presents data collected from two preliminary trials that studied the use of a combination of vitamin C and zinc for the common cold. Both studies are double-blind placebo-controlled. A placebo is a pill that doesn’t have any therapeutic effect. It is given to half of the subjects while the pill in question (in this case the 1000 mg vitamin C and 10 mg zinc) is given to the other half. The placebo is considered a control: something against which to compare the tested pill. Double blind means that neither the researchers nor the cold sufferers knew who was being given the real vitamin C and zinc and who was given the placebo until after the experiment was finished. Both studies showed that the nutritional combination significantly moderated runny nose, stuffy nose, watery eyes, and overall discomfort from sneezing. After 40 years of research, scientists can confirm what your mother already knew: taking vitamin C and zinc is a safe and effective way to support your immune system when you have a cold.
About the Author:
Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.
Maggini S, Beveridge S, Suter M. A combination of high-dose vitamin C plus zinc for the common cold. J Int Med Res. 2012;40(1):28-42.