Three Cold Season Myths Busted

With the cold and flu season upon us in full force, it's best to take a moment and figure out what might be some of the biggest myths out there today promoted as regards how to and how to not stay sick-free this blustery winter.

Brierly Wright, MS, RD is the Nutrition Editor of EatingWell Magazine and wrote up a few helpful tips that bust some of the myths many still believe to be veracious when it comes to sickness and keeping healthy.

A registered dietician who completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont, Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Q.     How helpful is Vitamin C?

A.      Not Very.

"Clinical studies have shown no effect for vitamin C in cold prevention in normal situations," said Wright. She did go on to say that 200 mg or greater (more than twice the currently recommended  60-75 mg) may help "slightly" in the fight against colds.

Whereas some people find a certain small degree of assistance from Vitamin C, Wright said others simply do not. She did suggest that no one should exceed 2,000 mg per day, as more than this could cause stomach discomfort.

Zinc lozenges may help with colds, qua research by The Journal of Infectious Disease which showed that adults who took zinc in lozenge form (13.3 mg every 2 to 3 hours for as long as their cold lasted) were cold-less three days before those taking a placebo.

Q. What about honey?

A. Nope.

Though some experts have said in the past that pollen-infused honey may stimulate your immune system and thus reduce allergies, Wright debunks the fallacy in her statement that, "it's likely to be a very, very small amount."

The amount, in fact, is "not enough to make a difference. And, so far, no clinical evidence shows that honey alleviates allergy symptoms."

However, Wright went on to say, honey may help with one's cough.

Penn State University researchers discovered that honey is more affective than cough medicine, with "sweetness" being the possible "active ingredient" that makes it so.

"The brain part that registers sweet tastes and the part that causes coughing are located near each other so sensing sweetness may affect coughing," said Ian M. Paul, M.D.

"One (major) disclaimer," Wright said. "Don't give honey to a baby younger than one-year-old. Honey may contain spores of a bacteria that causes botulism, which an infant's immature immune system can't handle."

Q: Does dairy exacerbate congestion?

A.    Believe it or not, no it does not.

Scientific evidence has yet to support the myth that dairy products can make one's cold or congestion worse.

"In a blind test using a soy-based drink with similar sensory characteristics as milk," said Wright, "subjects reported the same changes in mucus production as they did with cow's milk."

In fact, Wright explained that the Vitamin D in milk may help boost one's immune system and that yogurt contains probiotics that definitely stimulate said immunity.

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