Do Immune Support Supplements Really Work?
  • June 8, 2018
  • I hate getting sick — especially catching a cold. I get anxious whenever I start to feel the slightest bit ill or have to spend time around someone who’s under the weather.

    Perhaps slightly to abate my nerves, I have become *a little bit addicted* to immune support supplements. My supplement of choice? Airborne. First I tried the effervescent tablets that dissolve in water. Then I resorted to the chewable tablets before discovering my favorite version: the gummies. I’m also a fan of the (cheaper) CVS brand version of Airborne.

    I confess — I may have overdone it a few times and taken more Airborne than was necessary or healthy. But at the same time, I usually don’t catch a cold when I take Airborne. Was that pure luck, or did the supplement truly help my immune system?

    Short answer? Not really.

    “The short answer is no, they do not work to boost anyone’s immune system,” Dr. Ali Anari, cofounder and chief medical officer of RoyalBlueMD, a telemedicine company, said via email. “Taking these supplements will not suddenly give you all the nutrients and hydration that our bodies need to remain healthy.”

    Taking supplements is not the key to staying healthy, he added. A varied diet, regular exercise and hydration play more of a significant role in keeping the immune system strong.

    A Harvard Health blog post backs up Anari’s thoughts. “Walk into a store, and you will find bottles of pills and herbal preparations that claim to ‘support immunity’ or otherwise boost the health of your immune system,” it reads. “Although some preparations have been found to alter some components of immune function, thus far there is no evidence that they actually bolster immunity to the point where you are better protected against infection and disease.”

    What ingredients are in immune support supplements?

    So what’s actually in these supplements? A couple of them appear to contain similar ingredients. According to Berkeley Wellness, Airborne is made up of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc, to name a few. Emergen-C, another immune support supplement, claims it contains vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, potassium and other ingredients.

    Based on their components, it sounds like these supplements should be useful. After all, who hasn’t heard that vitamin C helps with a cold? But as Berkeley Wellness and WebMD point out, there’s little solid evidence behind the idea that vitamin C can prevent or treat a cold. And Airborne in particular seems to have learned its lesson there. In 2008, the company settled a lawsuit over false advertising, as it previously said its product could ward off colds. Airborne has since changed its advertising to say that its product boosts one’s immune system.

    So, do you need immune support supplements?

    The takeaway here seems to be that immune support supplements aren’t all they’re cracked up to be (or at least not all I hoped they were cracked up to be). Preventing your body from getting sick is more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle than simply taking some gummy supplements every once in a while. Yet it doesn’t appear that supplements like Airborne are totally bad for you — as long as you don’t take them in excess, according to LiveStrong.com.

    As for me, perhaps it’s just paranoia, but I more than likely won’t stop taking my favorite immune support supplements. But I probably should refrain from overdoing it and consuming more than is recommended in a single day.

    About Erin Dietsche

    Erin ran track from an early age, but it wasn't until her parents "forced" her to join her high school cross country team that she fell in love with running. Since then, she's become an avid runner and learned how to balance her running with her interest in eating chocolate. After graduating from the University of Iowa, Erin began her job as a writer for a healthcare publication. Outside of her job, she enjoys playwriting and checking out everything the Chicago theatre scene has to offer. When she's not writing, reading or running, Erin likes listening to rap music and playing the piano.

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