Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cold "remedies" part II. Vitamin C

The other day my stepson asked me if we could get some vitamin C. I asked him if he thought he had scurvy. He said no, just a scratchy throat. I said we never buy it because IT DOESN'T WORK! He said that he had been taking it recently whenever he feels as though he's coming down with a cold, and then he hasn't gotten one so it must work. I told him "Well I have felt as though I was coming down with a cold numerous times over the last couple of months, DIDN'T take Vitamin C, and also DIDN'T come down with a cold (all true, by the way), so I can say with just as much validity that NOT taking Vitamin C caused me to not come down with a cold. He just looked skeptical.

Studies have proven that vitamin C does not prevent colds, but it may reduce the severity and duration, although if it does it is only by a tiny amount (e.g. 5.8 days without vitamin C and 5.5 with). Both severity and duration are subjective. It is easy to tell whether you have a cold, but when do you call it over? When you start to feel better? When your cough stops? When your nose stops running? What if you start to get better at night, and don't realize it until morning?

In 1983, Charles W. Marshall Ph.D., a biochemist, wrote a chapter for his book Vitamins and Minerals: Help or Harm? called Vitamin C: Do High Doses Prevent Colds? which he updated in 1992. A condensed version was published on in 2002. In it, he indicated several difficulties with studies of this type. The most interesting to me was the 1977 twin study where one twin got vitamin C and the other got a placebo. After the study, four of the 44 mothers admitted to tasting the capsules to try and determine which twin had what. How many other mothers did that but didn't admit it? Kind of messes up the double blindedness of the study.

In the experiments where test subject's noses or throats were inoculated with a cold virus (just want to interject--eeeeew), ALL the participants came down with colds, whether or not they were taking vitamin C.

In case you think that these data might be a little old, there have been more recent studies that came to the same conclusions.

Again, as Dr. Dean Edell says, people tend to think that the last thing they did caused what happened (or did not happen) next. However, sometimes you feel as though you're coming down with something and you're not.

Vitamin C works just as well as sticking a banana in your ear to keep the elephants away. No elephants here? Must be working! Or if you're Ernie and Bert it keeps the alligators away:

The ONLY thing vitamin C is really good for is treating vitamin C deficiency, aka scurvy. Washing your hands is still the best cold preventative out there, and if you do get sick, get plenty of rest and drink fluids. And don't waste your money on homeopathic crap like Airborne. At least Vitamin C is cheap.

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