In case you've been in a deep slumber for the past ten years (or live outside the United States), allow me to tell you of the multi-million dollar business that is Airborne.
Created by a Californian second grade teacher who constantly caught more than just the sniffles from her students, Airborne is billed as a "cold remedy" that should be taken upon the first sign of having contracted a cold.
The tagline reads, "Sick of getting sick while traveling?" and suggests the enclosed tablets help your immune system from catching a cold in crowded places like airplanes, classrooms, and offices.
Although the creator has alluded to double-blind studies comparing Airborne to a placebo demonstrating that her product achieves what it promises, a 2006 investigation by ABC News revealed some interesting tidbits.
" Airborne said that a double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted with "care and professionalism" by a company specializing in clinical trial management, GNG Pharmaceutical Services.
GNG is actually a two-man operation started up just to do the Airborne study. There was no clinic, no scientists and no doctors. The man who ran things said he had lots of clinical trial experience. He added that he had a degree from Indiana University, but the school says he never graduated."
Interestingly enough, all mentions of that study (prominent on earlier packaging of the product) are now gone.
A few things stand out to me when I look at the nutritional composition of each tablet:
1) The presence of ginger, echinacea, forsythia, and isatis root. They give the illusion of homeopathy and alternative medicine, but there is no substantial research to show that any of these help prevent colds -- or their duration.
2) Each tablet contains 16 times the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C -- or 1600% of a day's worth! This also happens to be exactly the upper tolerable intake (the amount you are recommended NOT to surpass each day) of said vitamin. This is troubling.
Not only do extremely high levels of Vitamin C raise your risk of developing kidney stones, bind the absorption of minerals like selenium and copper, and cause gastrointestinal distress -- they are also unnecessary.
Remember, Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. This means excess amounts are not stored in our fatty tissue. Rather, they are excreted in the urine. Giving your body 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C when it only needs 90 is like pouring 5 liters of water into a 1 liter bottle. Futile!
Buyers are instructed to take one tablet every 3 to 4 hours, but not exceed 3 doses a day. That is still a completely unnecessary amount of vitamin C ( grand total: 4800% of the daily recommended amount and 4 times the tolerable upper intake limit ).
3) Each tablet also packs in 230 milligrams of sodium. Take one three times a day and you're up to almost half of the recommended maximum intake of this overconsumed mineral. That's as much sodium as a tablespoon of soy sauce!
The best way to develop a strong immune system is through healthy overall eating patterns. Making fruits, vegetables, whole grains, heart-healthy fats, and legumes (or lean meats) your staples guarantees that you are providing your body with the nutrition it needs.
Huge amounts of vitamin C will simply end up in the toilet a few hours later.
Besides, if you generally aren't providing your body with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, two days of megadosing will give you nothing but stomach cramps -- and possibly diarrhea.
Your best protection against colds? Wash your hands often.
I always like to keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer at my work desk and in my coat pocket. That way, after being on a subway or any place where high exposure to germs is likely, I can wash my hands with a quick squirt of the bottle.
So, save the $10 and buy yourself a nice scarf to keep yourself warm during these cold months.