According to the manufacturer Ringana, vitamin C and “vital mushrooms” in the “CAPS immu” food supplement is said to strengthen the immune system. This is not sufficiently documented.
Cold or gastrointestinal flu: when such infections are dealt with, it is difficult not to become infected. Especially parents of small children or people in professions with a lot of public traffic are familiar with the problem.
However, susceptibility to infection is also a matter of lifestyle: For example, those who have stress at work often fail to eat healthily and sleep too little. This also favours frequent infections. Those who then drag themselves to work are inefficient and spread the pathogens further. The exertion also weakens and the next infection is not long in coming.
What helps to break this vicious cycle? In this situation, it would be nice if the immune system could be strengthened simply by taking it by mouth. Supplements manufacturers hope that many people will use this strategy.
We received a reader request for the preparation CAPS immu, which according to the manufacturer is supposed to support the body’s defences. The advertised effect has its price: the consumer should take three capsules a day, each of which costs around 50 cents. But does the preparation also deliver what it promises?
Advertising poetry and many ingredients
When looking at the list of ingredients in the dietary supplement, it is noticeable that the preparation consists of a large number of “natural” ingredients: A number of “medicinal mushrooms” are listed that come from traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurveda and are “true energy boosters” should.
The whole thing is rounded off by herbal ingredients such as lime algae, Guduchi, acerola and an extract from black elderberries. The manufacturer emphasizes the supply of vitamins, amino acids and polysaccharides from the mushrooms and their supposedly positive effects on the immune system. Acerola and elderberry are included because of their vitamin C content: “Vitamin C contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system”, according to the associated advertising message.
Effect of CAPS immu not proven
We searched in vain for references to studies that were carried out with the preparation on the manufacturer’s website. An intensive literature search was also unable to reveal any corresponding study. Scientific evidence for an immune-boosting effect of the mixture is therefore missing. In addition, we also looked for whether there might be studies for individual ingredients that prove a positive effect on the immune system.
For the calcareous algae and the various fungi, we were unable to identify any studies dealing with the prevention of common infections in otherwise healthy people. There are individual studies that examined certain patient groups, such as cancer patients after chemotherapy or HIV patients. As a rule, the researchers in these studies only collected individual information about the immune system, such as the number of certain cells.
However, this does not allow any firm conclusions to be drawn as to whether the risk of infection is actually reduced or other health problems occur less frequently. Investigations in which actually relevant effects for the patient were measured often found no difference between the respective preparation and a dummy drug. Most of them are studies with relatively few patients.
Vitamin C: No preventive effect
On the other hand, the benefits of vitamin C to prevent colds have been very well researched. In short: With regular intake of vitamin C, you are not less likely to catch a cold than if you do not. A summary analysis of several studies was only able to determine a positive effect in the case of extreme physical stress.
According to the requirements of the European Union, food supplements with vitamin C may contain the indication that the vitamin contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system.
However, the scientific evaluation of this benefit statement relates to the results of studies that infections are more common when there is a vitamin C deficiency. Conversely, it cannot be deduced from this that the increased intake strengthens the immune system and leads to fewer colds.
Washing hands helps
Even if the benefits of such dietary supplements have not been proven, you can still actively protect yourself against a cold: contact with the hands is one of the most important transmission routes for pathogens.
That is why frequent hand washing is important- both for himself and for his children.
Not touching yourself and others in the face also reduce the risk of spreading pathogens to the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose. Infection is best avoided if you do not drink from the same cup or bottle. And some basic rules help not to infect others if you have a cold yourself: if you sneeze or cough, hold a handkerchief in front of your mouth or nose, use paper handkerchiefs and dispose of them immediately after use. After that, hand washing should be a matter of course. And those who want to protect their loved ones postpone kisses and hugs until after the infection.
The studies in detail
In 40 patients with blood cancer (multiple myeloma), researchers compared the effects of therapy with an extract of almond fungus compared to a sham treatment.
The patients underwent high-dose chemotherapy while taking an extract. In the patients who had taken the mushroom extract, there were significant changes in cells and messenger substances of the immune system. However, this had no effect on the effectiveness of chemotherapy or overall survival.
In patients with HIV, taking Guduchi extract over a six-month period did not affect the blood picture significantly differently than a placebo. In particular, the number of CD-4 immune cells did not differ .
A study examined the effectiveness of a mixture of traditional Chinese medicine agents, including Reishi powder, on patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
However, the proportion of patients with sufficient relief from the symptoms did not differ significantly from those who received a dummy treatment.
A systematic review to prevent a cold with vitamin C summarized the data from more than 11,000 participants from 29 studies.
Preventive use did not reduce the risk of catching a cold in the general population. A positive effect was only found in people who were briefly exposed to heavy physical exertion or extreme cold. In the respective studies, the researchers examined ultramarathon runners, children in a one-week ski camp and Canadian soldiers doing a military exercise in the subarctic.