Recent reports about a study conducted by researchers from Australia and Finland declare Linus Pauling was wrong, “vitamin C Doesn’t Cure the Common Cold.”
If the reporters of the stories had taken the time to read Pauling’s books they would realize that the recent research, in fact, actually verifies his claims!
To clarify, Linus Pauling never said that vitamin C was a miracle drug that could cure the common cold. He merely hypothesized that it could improve people’s overall health by some measure and that it had some benefit in managing the common cold, including reducing the incidence and duration of colds.
His thesis was basically this: one drawback to human evolution is that our bodies lost the ability to naturally produce vitamin C. Nearly every other animal on earth retains this ability.
In addition to humans, gorillas, guinea pigs and fruit bats, are the only other mammals to have lost the ability to produce vitamin C internally. These other animals, however, are all vegetarians and thus get an adequate amount of vitamin C through their diets (for example, gorillas eat 50 pounds of fruits and veggies a day!).
Pauling recommended that, having given up vegetarianism as a species long ago, human beings should supplement in a similar amount to that which the average animal creates naturally, 10 to 12 grams (10,000 to 12,000 milligrams). Either that, or eat 125 to 150 oranges per day.
Back to the study. Even though it used much smaller doses than Pauling recommended (200 mg versus the 1,000 mg minimum espoused by Pauling) it still bears out his hypothesis.
The reports reveal that:
“People who had taken vitamin C before developing symptoms tended to have a 14 percent reduction in the duration of the cold.”
“People exposed to extreme physical exertion or cold weather… had a 50 percent reduction in the incidence of colds.”
“Patients… [who] used a single massive dose of eight grams of vitamin C on the first day that respiratory symptoms appeared, experienced a shorter illness than those taking placebo.”
(Pauling specifically recommended this last technique. Also note that the “massive dose” is still below what Pauling considered average.)
Pauling complained throughout his career of the lack of research into the benefits of vitamin C. His frustration lie in the fact that the large drug companies, who fund the vast majority of clinical studies, actually have an incentive to prevent the study of vitamin C. For if vitamin C were shown to have health benefits, as a commodity, no entity would profit from it. In addition, the drug companies would find themselves facing a new, very low-cost competitor.
Now that a rare study confirms Pauling’s beliefs, he is perversely labeled a quack just as he was during most of his lifetime. As the only two-time, undivided nobel prize winner, he should at least be given the benefit of the doubt. With this new information, he should even be celebrated. One day he will be.