29 February 2008

Vitamin C vs. the common cold: it doesn't help

Today I'm swinging the Hammer of Science at the Nail of Myth.

I have a cold. I think. Or a mild flu. I'm not exactly sure, and it doesn't much matter. It could be a flu without the stomach upset, or a cold w/ a fever on the side. Whatever. People keep asking me if I'm "taking vitamin c" and "drinking orange juice". I give them the benefit of the doubt when they ask if I'm drinking OJ, because it is important to stay hydrated, esp. when you're sick.

This notion of taking vitamin c when you're sick with a cold is complete bullshit and I wish people would stop it. It was mostly popularized by Linus Pauling, who was outstanding at physics and chemistry but strangely short-sighted when it came to vitamin c and the common cold.

There is no scientific proof that taking vitamin c has any effect on the duration or severity of your cold. None. Every now and then someone will release a study that suggests there "may" be a correlation. If Pauling had exercised the same scientific restraint in his language then the current myth wouldn't have spread so far and wide. This widespread ignorance is a pet peeve of mine.

Here's a link to a short explanation of the myth:

Here's a link with a long explanation of the myth:

Here's a link to idiots on the yahoo answers website, who don't have any kind of excuse, because if they can post a (wrong) answer to yahoo they can type 'vitamin c cold' into Google and discover their ignorance:

Here's a study cited by webMD that makes some bullshit claims and proves nothing, although they do close the article with "larger studies are needed to test these findings further", because they acknowledge that testing 12 people, and getting results with 4 (!!) is shite science:

No comments: