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Notice please see your doctor before drastically changing your diet, etc

In 1970, Linus Pauling wrote a book called Vitamin C And The Common Cold, where he claimed that vitamin C could prevent and reduce symptoms of the common cold. He used frequent talk show appearances, numerous published papers, and scientific presentations to support a nutritional healing specialty he named "orthomolecular medicine."

Pauling said that two major interactions of vitamin C are in potentiating the immune system and aiding the synthesis of the protein collagen. He also points out that most animals, except humans, monkeys, and apes, manufacture vitamin C in their liver in amounts proportional to body weight. For an adult the proportion turns out to be on the average about 10 or 12 grams a day, which is about 200 times the USDA Recommended Daily Allowance(RDA). At one time the GLO gene in humans was key in manufacturing vitamin C, but this gene has degenerated because our eating habits supplied us with enough Vitamin C to live by.

In Linus Pauling's book he claims that taking 1 gram (1,000 mg) of vitamin C daily would reduce the incidence of colds by 45% for most people, but that some might need much larger amounts. He recommends that if symptoms of a cold do start, you should take 500 or 1,000 mg every hour for several hours, or up to 4 to 10 grams daily until symptoms disappear. The second edition of the book, issued in 1976 as Vitamin C, the Common Cold and the Flu, suggested even higher dosages. Due to Pauling's reputation as a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, vitamin C has become the most used vitamin supplement for colds. When his theory was announced, millions of Americans rushed to try it for themselves. Pauling himself reportedly took 12,000 mg daily and raised it to 40,000 mg when symptoms of a cold appeared.

Notice: This is a theory. The FDA recomends taking Vitamin C to supplement your diet only if you do not get your recomended doses through your normal diet, or under doctor supervision. Never-the-less, do not read the rest of this write-up if you already recieve the benefits of Vitamin C as it relates to the Common Cold, as you do not need the information provided.


Many well-designed, double-blind studies have shown that supplementation with Vitamin C does not prevent colds and at best may slightly reduce symptoms of a cold. A double-blind study is one in which there are both actual treatment given, and a placebo given, and recipients do not know which treatment they are getting.

One such clinical trial, was directed by by Dr. Terence Anderson, professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto, who found only marginal reduction in symptoms, and not any evidence for Vitamin C being a cure, or preventing a cold. This symptom reduction may occur as the result of an antihistamine-like effect. In fact, Pauling’s own test results came up with only a slight change in days with a symptomatic cold.

Another important study was reported in 1975 by scientists at the National Institutes of Health who compared Vitamin C pills with a placebo before and during colds. Although the experiment was supposed to be double-blind, half the subjects were able to guess which pill they were getting, because initially the placebo did not taste the same as the supplement. When the results were tabulated with all subjects lumped together, the vitamin group reported fewer colds per person over a nine-month period. But among the half who hadn't guessed which pill they had been taking, no difference in the incidence or severity was found.

This discrepancy is a good illustration of the placebo effect. Vitamin C may have no effect the patients physical health, but researchers have shown that those who take a placebo in the early stages of a cold experience milder symptoms. Placebos are well know in the medical community. In many tests, patients who take a placebo instead of receiving treatment may experience some relief.

This suggests that with the proper encouragement, a sick person can be made to believe that they are being treated, and will get better. Some people think that Pauling knew about placebo research, and realized the power he commanded as the winner of Nobel Prizes in peace and chemistry. He knew that if he declared that Vitamin C prevented colds, people would believe it. If the people believed it, then they would experience the desired results in the form of a placebo effect. It is very likely that Pauling was simply wrong about Vitamin C. Nevertheless, Pauling’s books whether intentional or not, have caused a placebo cure for the common cold for many people. Over the years, His work has become a sort of modern old-wives tale, that everyone believes. Millions of people, many of whom have never heard of Linus Pauling, have taken Vitamin C to ward off colds. And many of them have unquestionably benefited.

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