Vitamin C doesn’t prevent colds, author says – Yahoo News Canada (blog)
You know the drill.
You wake up with the sniffles – maybe the light, raspy shadow of a mild sore throat.
You cough. It seems a little deep.
You think you’re catching a cold. You don’t want or need to catch a cold.
So – maybe you reach for the vitamin C.
Hold that thought.
Throughout the panoramic sweep of human history, the cure for the common cold has proved elusive. But a compromise wisdom has emerged. A broad consensus feels that if you can’t cure a cold, vitamin C might at least be able to head one off.
At least one well-informed author disagrees.
“Short answer: it does not appear to,” says Catherine Price, the author of Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Natural Perfection, an overview of how vitamins revolutionized the way we think about food.
“The big meta-analyses of vitamin C have concluded that when it is taken as a preventative measure, it doesn’t help prevent colds in the general population. While there’s always a chance that you’ll benefit from the placebo effect, popping Airborne once you already have a cold is probably a waste of time.”
Price has given a lot of thought to how this vitamin-popping phenomenon started, and why it has gained such wide – and devoted – traction.
“The first reason is Linus Pauling, the Nobel-winning scientist who became convinced in the 70s that super-doses of vitamin C would prevent and cure colds,” she noted.
“His 1970 book Vitamin C and the Common Cold kicked off the public obsession with using mega-doses of vitamin C as a prevention and/or a cure.
“The second reason is our desperate desire for magic bullets and ‘natural’ remedies. But I’d caution people that, while vitamin C as found in foods like oranges and peppers can be considered natural, there’s nothing natural about taking huge doses of vitamin C in pill form. Supplements allow us to take it at levels that would be impossible to achieve through eating fruits or vegetables or other foods that naturally contain it.”
Price stresses that vitamin C is a nutrient, not a drug. She warns that, by taking so much of it at one time, people are not using it the way our bodies normally would.
“Human beings do not like nuance and ambiguity, especially when it comes to health,” she said.
“We also don’t like unsolvable problems, or changes – like eating better or exercising regularly – that are difficult to make. Instead we like easy answers, quick fixes, and anything that provides promise and hope.
So – what to do?
“The best way to avoid the common cold is probably to wash your hands regularly, stay away from sick people, reduce your stress, and get adequate rest,” Price concluded.
“But wouldn’t it be easier if you could just pop a pill?”