Vitamin C, zinc, Echinacea: what cold supplements really work? And even if they do, should you take them?You Know When It Hit You! A runny nose, headaches, sneezing - you know when cold season made its personal yearly introduction to you.At that point you just want relief. Maybe because you need to work. Or because you want to enjoy the winter vacation you looked forward to for the last six months.Unfortunately, you'll need to man (or woman) up if you got a cold, because the most popular cold supplements either don't work or could make you feel worse in the long run.Vitamin C: Useless For MostNothing beats vitamin C in popularity as a cold remedy. Unfortunately nothing beats vitamin C in ineffectiveness either:
- In a 1979 study, half of 764 Marine recruits took two grams of vitamin C per day. The other group got a placebo. There was no difference in severity or length of colds (PDF).
- In a similar setup, a 1984 study divided 528 people into a vitamin C and a placebo group. 47% of those in the vitamin C group got colds. In the placebo group it was 46%.
- In 2001, Australian researchers monitored 149 volunteers for 18 months and gave them either a 1 g or 3 g vitamin C supplements at the beginning of a cold and for the following two days. A third group received a placebo. Here too the researchers couldn't note any difference in length or severity of the illness.
- A 2007 meta-analysis came to the conclusion that only for people under severe physical strain (marathon runners, soldiers in sub-arctic climates etc.) vitamin C can have a positive effect.
- Wash your hands when you touched public surfaces like door knobs, elevator buttons etc. They are the favorite hangout of cold viruses. If someone with a cold touched them before you, they transfer to your hands. From there they have a shortcut to the sensitive areas of your face (eyes, mouth, nostrils), as on average we touch our faces 3.6 times per hour (PDF).
- Your prime defender against infections is your immune system. Sleep is the time when it refills its artillery and gets ready to combat invaders the next day you face an unforgiving world. An impressive study highlighted that without enough sleep, you are three times more likely to catch a cold.