Vitamin C: is it all just hokum?

Superstitious? Me? As the Mail's Science Editor, I'd hate to think so - but it seems I may have been deluding myself. While I have always dismissed diet fads and miracle cures as no more than expensive witchcraft, there is one bit of old-wivery I have always sworn by. And that's vitamin C.
At the first tingle of a cold, I guzzle the stuff like it is going out of fashion. Forget the 60 milligram recommended daily allowance: when my nose starts running, I mainline the stuff, taking three, sometimes four, whole grams a day. And you know what? It seems to work.
For me, anyway. Vitamin C does not cure my colds, but it seems to make them go away a day or so faster than otherwise.
It is pretty hard to conduct clinical trials on yourself, of course, but relying purely on instinct, I would have to agree with the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling who, in the 1970s, suggested that taking a gram of vitamin C every day was a sure way of keeping colds at bay.
Well, it seems I - and Pauling - may be wrong. A comprehensive review of research published last week shows that the benefit of taking supplemental vitamin C is so slight that, when it comes to colds, it is simply not worth the effort and expense.
Only marathon runners, energetic skiers and others who put their bodies through periods of extreme stress and cold may benefit. Vitamin C will neither protect you from the bug nor do much to lessen the severity of the infection.
Britons spend enormous sums - about £360million a year - on vitamins. After the study was reported, microbiologist Hugh Pennington said: 'I think the public's faith in vitamins is slightly misplaced.'
It is easy to conclude that when it comes to vitamins and diet supplements, we are being sold a pup. But is this true? In fact, judging whether it is worth taking vitamin supplements is extremely difficult as research is often contradictory.
The public seem to be torn in two as well. Some of the greatest consumers of dietary supplements are often the same people who try to eschew 'chemicals' in their food.
Vitamins certainly are vital. Think of them as the oil that keeps our bodies running smoothly, facilitating the various chemical reactions that take place in our cells. If we don't get enough of them, we are in real trouble.

Source - Daily Mail

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