The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

91° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: In the case of an emergency, you probably don’t need Emergen-C

When asked about the sales of vitamin supplements in the last few weeks, Alexis Failla, a cashier for U-Mart, noted that she sees more and more people come in every day to stock up on products such as Emergen-C. As we make our way into the ominous depths of the cold and flu season, people reach a point of desperation in preventing themselves from catching yet another cold.

Being college students often means living in close quarters with mass numbers of people; so naturally, we get sick quite a lot. Adequate sleep, staying hydrated and cleaning shared surfaces (including your hands) regularly are all scientifically proven ways to lessen your chances of catching a cold or the flu. However, contrary to popular belief, taking supplements such as Emergen-C that flush your body with ineffable quantities of vitamin C actually have no health benefits for the average person. Not only does Emergen-C not work in preventing colds, but it can actually be detrimental to your body.

If you read the nutrition information on a food package and saw that it had 1667 percent of the recommended daily value of some nutrient, wouldn’t you be a bit skeptical about consuming that product? If so, perhaps you should think twice next time you rush to make the fizzy, fruity vitamin concoction, given that it has 1667 percent of the National Institute of Health’s recommended daily value of vitamin C.

Additionally, due to the copious quantities of both vitamin A and vitamin C in Emergen-C, you can basically have a vitamin overdose. With vitamin C, an overdose can cause nausea, diarrhea and cramps, but with Vitamin A, an overdose can have side effects as severe as bone pain, loss of vision and even a coma. Clearly, Emergen-C does not have lethal doses of any kind of vitamin, but given that there is no clinical proof that the product is effective in its mission, why take the risk of flushing your body with more vitamins than it can handle? Too much of a good thing is almost never going to turn out well.

The propaganda surrounding the effectiveness of Emergen-C likely stems from a few studies that have shown some benefit from the drink. However, all the studies have shown the results of a slightly shorter-lasting cold in people who took Emergen-C after being long-term exposed to extreme physical conditions, i.e. skiiers, soldiers in the subarctic and marathon runners. There was one study done by the Mayo Clinic that found people who took Emergen-C while “living in extreme circumstances … had a 50 [percent] decrease in the risk of developing a cold.” While this may very well be true, the hordes of UA students who are chugging this drink on the daily are not exactly living in igloos in Antarctica or running 26 miles a day.

Another study, conducted by the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, used placebos on half of their participants and found that the vitamin-C group and the placebo group had the same incidence level in catching colds. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who regularly took vitamin-C supplements were more than twice as likely to have issues with kidney stones, which is due to the extra vitamin C that has to be excreted from the body being in the oxalate form. Kidney stones are made of calcium oxalate, and thus, with excessively high intake of vitamin C comes a higher risk for kidney stones.

Ultimately, this supplement is no miracle product, despite it being marketed as such. So, if you want to take preventative measures to protect yourself during this flu season, stop overwhelming your body with these superfluous vitamin products and just start sleeping more, eating healthier and washing your hands more frequently.

Follow Talya Jaffe on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search