Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Vitamin C and the common cold

By Jonathan M. Gitlin
Sunday, July 03, 2005

Vitamin C and the common cold

If your mother is anything like mine, the slightest sniffle or sneeze is enough to bring on exhortations to take plenty of vitamin C. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbate, is an essential amino acid commonly found in citrus fruits, fresh vegetables and other healthy and delicious forms. Lack of vitamin C brings on the disease scurvy, and the Royal Navy’s use of limes onboard long journeys to prevent the disease is the root of the word Limey as a nickname for the British from its former colonies.

The therapeutic powers of vitamin C beyond the prevention of scurvy were championed by Linus Pauling, the double Nobel Prize winner, who, in common with many other Nobel Laureates, seemed to lose the plot ever so slightly in the latter stages of his career. Pauling believed massive doses of vitamin C could protect against cancer, and also the common cold.

That’s where we come in. A new study published in the current PLoS Medicine, an open source journal from the same people that brought us PLoS Biology, has conducted a meta-analysis of existing trials to determine if there really is any truth to the claims made by Pauling (and my mother). And as it turns out, there aren’t:
...the lack of effect of prophylactic vitamin C supplementation on the incidence of common cold in normal populations throws doubt on the utility of this wide practice.
So there you have it: Rhinovirus 1, Vitamin C 0

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