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The lowdown on Emergen-c
December 14, 2010 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Alright, so it's cold/flu/etc season and my roommate brought home a package of Emergen-c. He welcomed me to it, so I figured what the heck, I'll take a look at it. Then I noticed it says you can take it post-workout, which spiked my interest because I'm a self-described 'gym bum.'

I don't know what to think of this product, though - I'm getting really conflicting results from my Google search. Some people say it's unhealthy, others say they take it every day, and some say it's just a scam.

So, I guess there's really two questions: Will this stuff prevent me from getting sick, and is it healthy to take every day?

PS, I already take a multivitamin.
posted by ascetic to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The ingredients (Vitamins C, B12, and B6) are all water soluble, so anything over what your body can use will just get flushed out with your urine. Will it help anymore than washing your hands and eating a sensible diet with fruits and vegetables? I would say no, but I'm not a doctor.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:23 PM on December 14, 2010


I used to take the Emergen-C things, mostly as a multivitamin or if I was getting sick and wanted a jolt of vitamin C. There's nothing magical about them, just like there's nothing magical about vitamins, that Airborne stuff, or any other dietary supplement. The orange ones taste pretty decent for what they are; if it didn't taste good I wouldn't have used them. (Once the box I inherited was out, I didn't buy more.)

As far as them being unhealthy, there's not really anything in them that's going to hurt you--as long as you're not expecting it to perform miracles and do something nuts like forgo eating a balanced diet while taking them. One thing to watch out for is getting too much vitamin C. If you overdo it you'll get the shits.
posted by phunniemee at 2:26 PM on December 14, 2010


I've had good results taking Emergen-C at the first sign of a cold... seems to knock it out better than Airborne, and it tastes a lot better. I don't take it every day because it has a fair amount of sugar (6 grams, which is kind of a lot if you're doing low carb.) I like the raspberry flavor dissolved in somewhat less water than the package calls for.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:33 PM on December 14, 2010


Then I noticed it says you can take it post-workout, which spiked my interest because I'm a self-described 'gym bum.'

the reason you'd drink it post-workout is because it's got electrolytes in it; potassium helps you retain what you're drinking better than you ordinarily would to make up for what you've just sweat out. same reason you'd drink gatorade (which is gross overpriced corn syrup water), smart water (which is filtered water + electrolytes) or coconut water (8 ounces has twice the potassium of a banana).
posted by lia at 2:39 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I take it most days and I rarely get sick That is not to say that it prevents sickness. I just like taking it and it does not hurt my health. My dose = 2 packets mixed with a quarter cup of water, because I like it strong.

Anecdotally, it also seems to work wonders on hangovers (presumably all the B vitamins) and it does give me a little caffeine-free energy boost when I take it in the middle of the day.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:44 PM on December 14, 2010


There is no scientific evidence that Vitamin C megadosing works toward preventing illness or curing illness. Airborne has been ruled as fraudulent in the US. Any Vitamin C your body doesn't use will be flushed out and there is no correlation between dose size and illness. Anyone who tells you otherwise because of "anecdotal evidence" is experiencing a) the placebo effect, b) regression to the mean, or c) self-delusion.
posted by proj at 2:48 PM on December 14, 2010 [20 favorites]


I've always figured it's a placebo thing, combined with the fact that it gets you to load up on fluids. But you know, if the placebo effect will prevent me with coming down with a cold, hell yeah.

I don't know that I'd take it every day as a regular supplement, though - I tend to save them for when I'm feeling a cold coming on.
posted by Sara C. at 2:59 PM on December 14, 2010


Vitamin C does not prevent or lessen the severity of colds. Period. Those reporting goods results from taking vitamin C are likely to be taking other measures towards maintaining good health (diet, exercise, rest, sanitary practices) which are more effective in helping one avoid colds.
posted by holterbarbour at 3:05 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, I guess there's really two questions: Will this stuff prevent me from getting sick, and is it healthy to take every day?

No, and probably, but it's healthy not to take it every day as well.
posted by Justinian at 3:06 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vitamins B and C are both water soluable so you'll just pee out everything that's too much. Be sure to drink lots of water with it. I don't think it can HURT per se, but in terms of it helping, YMMV. I take it if I'm sick with something and it may help, but so does drinking lots of fluids in general.
posted by floweredfish at 3:13 PM on December 14, 2010


I prefer the Lite version - only available in Lemon Lime as far as I know, but tastes good to me - it has far less sugar, same vitamins.

I've taken it almost every day for years, but I don't know that proves anything - my doctor said it's fine to take every day, even if I'm taking other vitamins, and that it probably won't stop me from getting sick.

I have it in my head that even though I take great quality vitamins, the ones here are dissolved and enter my body better/faster. I am sure that's flawed somehow,
posted by mrs. taters at 3:18 PM on December 14, 2010


IANAD, but it's probably not too bad a way to give a boost to your plain water after a workout, especially if you aren't re-hydrating properly. It's certainly got less sugar than a sports drink or soda or juice if that's sometihng you're trying to cut down on. People like using it, but there's not much science behind any health benefits unless you're already C or B vitamin deficient.
But here are some potential side effects of overuse.
posted by bartleby at 4:36 PM on December 14, 2010


It won't prevent you from getting sick any more than that multivitamin. But it has 6 grams of sugar in it, which makes it slightly less healthy of a habit than the multivitamin, in my opinion (just like the so-called "vitamin waters" that are corn syrup water with a few vitamins thrown in).
posted by chez shoes at 4:38 PM on December 14, 2010


I use it in my water at the gym instead of buying gatorade. I would say it has made no discernible difference in how often I get sick, but it helps me stay hydrated at the gym and maybe recharges some electrolytes, which are undeniably good.

Oh, and I get the joint health one. Again, I have no idea if it's really helping my joints, but they could use all the help they can get, and the last I'd heard traditional medicine was still thinking glucosamine and chondroiton probably wouldn't hurt, at least.

I've certainly used it every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and suffered no ill effects.
posted by ldthomps at 5:32 PM on December 14, 2010


Anyone who tells you otherwise because of "anecdotal evidence" is experiencing a) the placebo effect, b) regression to the mean, or c) self-delusion.

Or it's a coincidence that that particular person actually did have a vitamin C deficiency, so supplementing helped. Helped them.

I think that that is how a lot of the popularity of this stuff starts, with observation bias--the one person who actually is helped by some random vitamin source notices a big improvement and becomes a tremendous evangelist for it, whereas the twenty or thirty people who don't need any more of that particular vitamin, and thus don't experience any results, don't become counter-evangelists, they just say "meh" and move on to the next thing.

I am noticing a huge difference since supplementing B-12/B-6/folic acid, D, and magnesium, but I was advised to do so by a doctor on the basis of blood test results; I wouldn't suggest that anyone else needed to do it without a deficiency having actually been identified for them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:54 PM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Airborne used to have a megadose of Vitamin A, which is a fat-soluble vitamin that you definitely don't want to over indulge in. Don't know if it still does. Too much Vitamin C probably won't do you any harm, but there's some evidence it can contribute to the formation of kidney stones. I'm sure you could get a more effective post-workout drink. Drinking whey protein and creatine, for example.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 9:01 PM on December 14, 2010


As proj said, any percieved benefit of vitamin C megadosing is going to be due to the placebo effect, unless you're deficient. There's some quick, brief info on this in this podcast:

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4103
posted by slumberfiend at 9:14 PM on December 14, 2010


they have some kind of balanced-for-optimal-absorption mineral complex in them too, which would probably be beneficial post workout.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:19 PM on December 14, 2010


"Too much Vitamin C probably won't do you any harm, but there's some evidence it can contribute to the formation of kidney stones."

As someone who just had his boss get kidney stones in part because they took too many tums daily without water and had calcium buildup, this bears paying attention to. If there's any chance this could lead to an increased chance of kidney stones, you owe it to your future self to ask your doctor now. I would not wish what he went through on anyone *shudders*.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:50 PM on December 14, 2010


The only time i've read of Vitamin C being actively bad, is if you are taking chemotherapy or in some other cancer treatment (link)
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:50 AM on December 15, 2010


As far as post-workout, that would be because of the potential that vitamin C may help relieve delayed-onset muscle soreness. Looks like the packets have 1g and the study was with 3g.
posted by olecranon at 10:58 PM on December 15, 2010


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