Don’t waste your $$ on Vitamin C supplements…

Especially, if you expect them to prevent the common cold.

With flu and cold season fast approaching, an article in the San Francisco Chronicle caught my eye and inspired this post.

For the first 58 years of my life, I had my fair share of bouts with the “common cold.” Unfortunately, they were much more common (frequent) than I would have liked. As a young child, I remember the agonizing trips to the doctor to have what seemed like gallons of mucus being sucked from my nostrils by some kind of noisy vacuum apparatus.

During my childhood in Mississippi—colds, fevers, sore throats, and coughs were about as routine as the bacon and eggs we had every morning for breakfast. The only good part of the “common cold” routine was getting to stay home from school.

Juicy grapefruit, one of many whole plant sources of Vitamin C—every day, not just when you feel a cold coming on.

Things didn’t get much better as an adult. From ages 19 through 58, I probably averaged 3 or 4 colds or bouts with flu every year—even though I was religious about taking my daily Vitamin C supplements and taking megadoses at the first sign of a cold. I probably wasted a thousand dollars on all those tablets.

Now we have some not-so-great news about Vitamin C. Reported on 10-4-12 in the San Francisco Chronicle (See link below):

After decades and dozens of studies, it appears the idea that vitamin C prevents colds is just an old wives’ tale. But there is some evidence that high doses of the vitamin, which is found in citrus fruit and other produce, may slightly shorten the length of a cold.

So what is a person to do? Well, I can tell you what I did and I can also provide you with some anecdotal information from other members of my family. It’s all about giving your body what it needs to build the strongest possible immune system—to fight flu, viruses, cancers and anything else that might invade your body.

It all begins with what your body needs to optimize your immune system; beginning with   the right food for our species. You might say that a strong immune system is a component of vibrant health. In addition to the right food, you also need clean water, fresh air, sunshine (Vitamin D), regular exercise, adequate rest and a positive state of mind. Even with all of the above, some of us still get sick from time to time but not nearly as often—and with much less severity. Here are my personal anecdotes:

Jason and me with Mount Washington. The 4Leaf lifestyle is our best protection against the common cold. (Ages 35 and 63 in this picture)

Myself (67). Since adopting a near optimal diet in 2003, my frequency of colds and flus has gone from about 3 or 4 per year to less than one per year on average.

And, oftentimes, when I feel the early symptoms of a cold, it disappears in less than two days. In the past, whenever I felt those early symptoms, it almost always developed into a horrible 2-week ordeal. FYI, I haven’t had a flu shot in over ten years, and I no longer take any Vitamin C supplements.

My son and co-writer, Jason Hicks (39). He reports that his frequency of colds has dropped 90 percent since adopting the near-optimal 4Leaf lifestyle. His main problem is probably not enough rest as he leads an extremely busy lifestyle.

Dr. Shawn Lankton, my nephew and fellow 4Leaf health enthusiast

My PhD nephew in New York (28). Shawn (shown was mentioned by name in our book. Now, a strategy consultant in New York for a premier international consulting firm, here’s what he reported for our book: “If I get sick, it lasts for about twelve hours (instead of days or weeks). Maybe the most interesting effect is that I feel ‘lighter’—sort of like having a clear sinus as opposed to being stuffed up, but for the whole body. It’s very refreshing.”

Two of my grandsons (Age 10 & 11). These guys  live in different homes in the Boston area. The ten-year old eats 4Leaf all the time and is one of the healthiest children in all of New England. The 11-year old eats the Standard American Diet (SAD) most of the time and suffers often (colds, fevers, ear aches, etc.) from its effects–about ten times more frequently than the ten-year old (shown here with me).

Andrew, my 4Leaf grandson (wearing a 4Leaf shirt) with me at a VegFest in Worcester, MA earlier this year. FYI, he can now outrun his older brother.

I might add that none of us 4Leaf-ers take Vitamin C on a regular basis. But we’re all constantly getting a great quantity of that vital nutrient at almost every meal. My 7 or 8 servings of fruits and green vegetables each day provides me with more Vitamin C in nature’s package every day—than the average American gets in a full month.

Back to the Vitamin C piece in the Chronicle; they really got it right in the last paragraph after emphasizing getting more of this nutrient from foods rather than from pills:

Citrus fruits, dark green vegetables, peppers, strawberries and cantaloupe are all good natural sources of vitamin C, but storage and cooking can take their toll. The longer a food is stored, the more vitamin C it loses, and cooking and steaming dissolves some of the nutrient.

To maximize the vitamin C you get from food, the National Institutes of Health recommend eating fruits and vegetables fresh and raw

The Bottom Line. It’s all about your immune system—and your lifestyle choices have a lot to do with how well it functions. Do yourself and your family a favor and make 4Leaf eating a routine habit in your home. And do it now—before your children get too set in their bad habits. While your children are young, you hold the key to the future health of all of your family members who follow you. Do them all a favor and use that key.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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3 Responses to Don’t waste your $$ on Vitamin C supplements…

  1. Nathan says:

    On an individual level, it might not seem that important, but the flu shot is designed to be a population level prevention method. some 50-60 million people get the flu every year in the US, of those, 200,000 are hospitalized and 30,000 die. When you get vaccinated, you not only help prevent yourself from getting sick, but you help contribute to “herd immunity”, meaning you help prevent the disease from getting spread to others. When I get my annual flu shot (which I hardly need as a healthy young person), I know I am part of a movement to help save tens of thousands of lives, and hundreds of thousands of cases of suffering and lost productivity. So I think the argument about the “contaminants” is a little overboard. the contamination in a once per year, highly regulated flu shot is a drop in the bucket compared to the contamination found in most food that is consumed ~4 times a day.

  2. Linda201 says:

    The downside of a flu shot is all of the chemicals and contaminants that are in the vaccine itself. In addition, the makers of the vaccines are just taking educated guesses every season as to which strains will be the most prevalent and they often miss the mark. And Jim, how frustrating it must be for you to have a grandchild eating the SAD! One would think the robust health of the cousin would motivate the parents to make significant dietary changes!

  3. barbaraH says:

    I haven’t had a cold for years. But I still get a flu shot every year – why take a chance on getting the flu? What’s the downside of a flu shot? Especially for anyone who has any underlying conditions like asthma, where the flu can mean a very scary illness possibly requiring hospitalization.

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