Since I spend quite a bit of time traveling and can't afford to get many colds, the slightest tickle in my throat usually sends me bounding into the kitchen in search of a bolus of vitamin C. There I tear into a small blue packet containing a pastel powder, dump it into a glass of water, and gulp down the resulting fizzy elixir. Thinking rationally, I recognize the vitamin C is unlikely to help much - and yet I still practice this ritual every time I feel unwell.
Now I've come across an excellent analysis of whether or not vitamin C works for the common cold on Clinical Correlations and it offers another reminder that I'm probably wasting my money. Carolyn Bevan, MD, writes:
...at the end of the day, is there any benefit to taking a daily vitamin C supplement, or for chugging down that fizzy shot of mega-dose vitamin C when you feel a cold coming on? If you are a marathon runner, or if you are planning a winter adventure in the arctic tundra, you should certainly consider a daily dose of vitamin C. For the rest of us, it doesn’t seem to be worth the hassle and expense of adding one more pill to our daily routine.
How Bevan gets to that conclusion is definitely worth reading - and her analysis is even peer reviewed. Thanks to her effort, at least until I replace marathon flights with marathon runs, it seems that I can probably skip the vitamin C.