It's an article of faith for many of us: popping a vitamin C supplement to protect ourselves from a cold or hoping the one we got will be shorter. Does it really work?Linus Who?The whole craze about vitamin C and colds started with chemist Linus Pauling and his book Vitamin C and the Common Cold. In it he claimed that high dosages of vitamin C prevent colds and make their durations shorter.Since then it turned into common wisdom that vitamin C is the go-to vitamin once days get shorter and noses runnier. It probably didn't hurt that Pauling had two Nobel prizes to his name.The ScienceWell, Nobel prizes don't guarantee that you are right about everything. Since the 1970s, dozens of studies examined vitamin C and colds and most come to results like these three:
- In 1979, scientists conducted an experiment featuring 764 Marine recruits. Half of them received two grams of vitamin C per day, the other half got a placebo. Regardless of group, almost all participants got colds, with no difference in severity or length (PDF).
- A 1984 study put half of 528 volunteers into a placebo group and gave the other half 1 g vitamin C per day. In the vitamin C group 47% got colds, while it was 46% in the placebo group.
- In 2001, Australian researchers asked 149 volunteers to use vitamin C at daily doses of either 0.03 g (placebo), 1 g, or 3 g at the beginning of a cold and for the following two days. After monitoring these people and their colds for 1 1/2 years, no group had different experiences than any of the others.