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Blimey, Limey!

The preventive powers of vitamin C


Vitamin C can help to prevent the common cold. It also offers many health benefits, including enhancing iron absorption and healing wounds and burns.

Vitamin C can help to prevent the common cold. It also offers many health benefits, including enhancing iron absorption and healing wounds and burns.

Hundreds of years ago, sailors suffered horribly from a disease called scurvy until a British doctor discovered that a ration of lime juice prevented its onset (hence the nickname “Limey” for sailors of old).

Scurvy (now known to be a deficiency of vitamin C) is unlikely to occur in modern-day populations; however, possible signs of a deficiency include fatigue, easy bruising, bleeding gums, and poor wound healing. Those at greatest risk include diabetics, smokers, and athletes.

Vitamin C is an essential (meaning our body can’t make it so we have to get it from our diet), water-soluble nutrient that must be regularly replenished. It’s found in abundance in citrus fruits, rosehips, blackcurrants, cranberries, melons, mangoes, strawberries, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, asparagus, cruciferous vegetables, and peppers.

Vitamin C and the Common Cold

Vitamin C’s ability to prevent the common cold, particularly in those individuals supplementing with a daily vitamin C tablet, is well known. In clinical trials of persons under acute physical stress, vitamin C supplementation has been shown to reduce common cold occurrence by 50 percent.

Vitamin C can prevent–but not treat–a cold. A recent five-year clinical trial in Japan compared a 5 mg dose with a 500 mg dose per day in 244 adults. The researchers found that the group taking a higher dose caught significantly fewer colds than the other group, but that there was no reduction in the severity or duration of the cold once a person caught it.

Are vitamin C Supplements Safe?

Because vitamin C is water soluble and at the low end of the dosage range, there are no known side effects. Taking more than several grams per day, however, may result in diarrhea–especially when taking ascorbic acid-based supplements. This side effect stops as soon as high potency intake is reduced. To take higher doses of vitamin C without experiencing bowel problems, look for a sodium ascorbate form with a more neutral pH. Other concerns about the risk of developing kidney stones when taking vitamin C have been largely dispelled by recent research.

So whether you’re a Limey or a landlubber, get your vitamin C by eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables daily.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and may possess anticancer and detoxifying properties. It has also been associated with the following health benefits:

  • prevents asthma, cataracts, glaucoma, gingivitis, and the common cold
  • enhances iron absorption (important to prevent iron-deficiency anemia)
  • decreases blood levels of histamine (important for allergy and hay fever prevention and treatment)
  • reduces oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the bad type)
  • aids in the synthesis of collagen
  • heals wounds and burns


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