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Vitamin C supplementation and common cold symptoms: factors affecting the magnitude of the benefit

Author

Hemila H

Date

2/1999

Journal

Med Hypotheses

Abstract

Placebo-controlled trials have shown that vitamin C supplementation decreases the duration and severity of common cold infections. However, the magnitude of the benefit has substantially varied, hampering conclusions about the clinical significance of the vitamin. In this paper, 23 studies with regular vitamin C supplementation (> or = 1 g/day) were analyzed to find out factors that may explain some part of the variation in the results. It was found that on average, vitamin C produces greater benefit for children than for adults. The dose may also affect the magnitude of the benefit, there being on average greater benefit from > or = 2 g/day compared to 1 g/day of the vitamin. In five studies with adults administered 1 g/day of vitamin C, the median decrease in cold duration was only 6%, whereas in two studies with children administered 2 g/day the median decrease was four times higher, 26%. The trials analyzed in this work used regular vitamin C supplementation, but it is conceivable that therapeutic supplementation starting early at the onset of the cold episode could produce comparable benefits. Since few trials have examined the effects of therapeutic supplementation and their results have been variable, further therapeutic trials are required to examine the role of vitamin C in the treatment of colds.

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