Vitamin C, the common cold, and iron absorption

Am J Clin Nutr. 1977 Feb;30(2):235-41. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/30.2.235.


A sizable segment of the population was found to be taking large quantities of vitamin C to reduce the number or severity of upper respiratory infections. To determine the affect of this supplementation on iron balance, multiple radioiron absorption tests were performed in 63 male subjects. The increase in iron absorption from a semisynthetic meal was directly proportional to the amount of ascorbic acid added over a range of 25 to 1,000 mg. The ratio of iron absorption with/without ascorbic acid at these two extremes was 1.65 and 9.57, respectively. The relative increase was substantially less when the test meal contained meat. A large dose of vitamin C taken with breakfast did not effect iron absorption from the noon or evening meal. A telephone survey of 100 individuals revealed that 67 were taking supplemental ascorbic acid in doses ranging as high as 2 g daily. The average intake of supplemental ascrobic acid in this population was 280 mg daily. If taken only with breakfast, this level of supplementation would produce a nearly 2-fold increase in the amount of iron absorbed daily. If taken in divided doses with each mean, the increase in iron absorption would be more than 3-fold.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Common Cold / prevention & control*
  • Diet
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Iron / blood
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Stimulation, Chemical


  • Ferritins
  • Iron
  • Ascorbic Acid