One of the most contentious issues in modern medicine revolves around vitamins, especially vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid). For reasons that mystify us, most health professionals dismiss the value of vitamin supplements in general and vitamin C in particular. For decades we have been reading that all you need is a well balanced diet. There are only four people who have won the Nobel Prize twice. Linus Pauling is one of them. He was the strongest advocate for increasing intake of ascorbic acid.
C is for Controversy!
It’s hard to understand why health professionals have reacted with such hostility to something as simple and essential as ascorbic acid. Yet most doctors and medical researchers reacted with outrage when Dr. Pauling suggested that vitamin C could do more than protect us from scurvy.
To this day many physicians reject the idea that vitamin C can be helpful. One group of researchers who were highly critical of the vitamin C hypothesis set out to prove it wrong. However, they had to eat crow and accept the results of their own study. Dr. T. W. Anderson and others, writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, discovered, much to their surprise, that subjects taking a 1000 mg of vitamin C every day (increasing that dose to 4,000 mg at the onset of a cold) had a 9 percent reduction in frequency and 14 percent reduction in days sick.
A Reader’s Experience:
Q. I take 1000 mg of vitamin C daily with my morning orange juice. I have not had a cold or flu in more than eight years.
Before I started this regimen, I usually had at least one bout of cold or flu every year. That’s a consequence of living in South Florida with its annual tourist visits.
A. Vitamin C to reduce infection with colds or influenza has been controversial for decades. A review of the available research concluded that vitamin C supplements don’t prevent colds, but they may shorten the duration and severity of symptoms (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Oct. 2004).
There is evidence that vitamin C can boost the activity of immune system cells (Nutrients, Nov. 3, 2017). People who catch a cold may benefit from additional supplements of vitamin C (BioMed Research International, July 5, 2018).
Rejecting Vitamin C for the Common Cold
A recent review in the journal Medwave (Aug. 6, 2018) concluded:
“We identified eight systematic reviews including 45 studies overall, of which 31 were randomized trials. We concluded the consumption of vitamin C does not prevent the incidence of common cold.”
You can almost hear the self righteous delight in such a negative outcome. But we have a question for all the naysayers.
Why Doesn’t Vitamin C Work Every Time?
It is estimated that there are more than 200 distinct viruses that cause the common cold. To assume that they all react the same way to ascorbic acid would be simplistic. As far as we know, no researches have ever attempted to identify the specific viruses that might or might not respond to vitamin C.
Imagine someone rejecting penicillin on the grounds that it did not cure every infection. That would be ridiculous of course. Why not treat vitamin C fairly and do sophisticated research to test our hypothesis that some viruses may be more sensitive to ascorbic acid than others. It is also possible that one person’s immune system might also be more responsive than another persons.
Even if you choose not to take a vitamin supplement, you should make an effort to consume foods that contain ascorbic acid. Certain foods are rich in vitamin C, including red and green bell peppers, citrus fruit and juice, kiwifruit, peaches and others. To learn more about this essential nutrient and other vitamins and minerals, we highly recommend the book, Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More by Dr. Tieraona Low Dog. A special paperback edition is only available at this link.
Share your own vitamin C story below in the comment section.