Does Emergen-C Actually Work The Way It Claims?

Emergen-C is a nutritional health supplement containing super-high doses of vitamins C, B6, and B12, along with zinc, which purports to protect your immune system and even prevent you from getting sick altogether (it's also used as a hangover cure in certain quarters). The only vitamins you actually need on a daily basis are generally taken in from food, though, so is Emergen-C technically necessary?  

According to Healthline, it's most popular during the winter months, otherwise known as cold and flu season, and although it's generally safe to use there's a risk of stomach upset, nerve damage, or even copper deficiency if you're relying on Emergen-C too often — so keep that in mind regardless. 

Several ingredients in Emergen-C promote a healthy immune system

Emergen-C contains a whopping 1,000 mg of vitamin C, which is considerably more than the recommended daily allowance of 75 mg for women. Research is mixed on whether taking extra doses of vitamin C actually prevents colds or flu, with one study finding 200 mg only reduced the risk of getting a cold by 3 percent. If you're deficient in vitamin C, taking a supplement is beneficial. Otherwise, it may have very little to no effect whatsoever. 

Vitamin B, on the other hand, is associated with energy boosting. However, again, if you're not deficient, it's unclear whether supplementing it will help you feel more energetic. According to studies, the amount of immune cells your body produces is affected by insufficient levels of vitamins B6 and B12, but more research is required. Likewise, zinc, which is similarly important for the production of immune cells, has been found to shorten a cold's duration by, on average, 33 percent if supplemented. Unfortunately, Emergen-C may not contain enough zinc to qualify (it has just 2 mg).

Emergen-C is not a magical cure-all for colds and flu

As for whether Emergen-C actually works, the simple answer is more research needs to be done. There are no specific studies on the product, but we do know vitamin C contributes at least somewhat to immune health, which is its main ingredient (via NCBI). Harvard reports that "for the general population, taking daily vitamin C did not reduce the risk of getting a cold," however, "taking at least 200 mg of vitamin C per day did appear to reduce the duration of cold symptoms by an average of 8 percent in adults and 14 percent in children..."

Elroy Vojdani, M.D., explained to Shape that vitamin C is important as it has "been proven to help protect the body, and several cells of the immune system need vitamin C to perform their task and defend us against sickness." But you shouldn't necessarily be getting it from Emergen-C, which contains way too much in the first place. Rather, you should sort out your diet, get regular exercise, sleep, and reduce stress to combat any immune issues. As Dr. Vojdani emphatically stated, "Beyond zinc and vitamin C, there are no ingredients in Emergen-C that might influence sickness."