Studies indicate Vitamin C, milk have no effect on common-cold symptoms
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
12/11/12 at 3:26 AM
Dear Doctor K: My mom always told me to take vitamin C and not to drink milk when I had a cold. Is this an old wives' tale?
Dear Reader: The idea that vitamin C supplements might prevent the common cold, or shorten the duration, was popularized by the biochemist Linus Pauling. Pauling was a Nobel Prize winner and one of the most distinguished scientists of the 20th century. When Pauling talked, people listened.
In fact, people not only listened, they put the scientist's ideas to a scientific test. Randomized controlled trials involving thousands of people were conducted. My interpretation of the results of those studies is that they showed no evidence that vitamin C supplements reduced the duration or severity of the common cold. There was weak evidence that they might reduce the risk of catching it.
Still, studies like these can tell us only about the results in the "average" person. It may be that there really are some people who do benefit from vitamin C supplements; the problem is that we currently have no way of identifying these people. Some of my patients insist that vitamin C helps them to deal with the common cold, and they could be right.
What about drinking milk? The argument was that milk increased the amount and thickness of phlegm that is produced during a cold. Phlegm is the thick, mucous-containing fluid responsible for congestion and post-nasal drip.
But a set of studies published in 1990 found no clear connection between milk consumption and cold symptoms. The bottom line: There's good evidence that the intake of milk or dairy products does not delay recovery from a cold or make symptoms worse.
If you have a cold or are recovering from one, it's OK to drink milk. But if it gives you the sensation that you have more phlegm or that your congestion is worse, you're probably responding to the fat in the milk - not the milk itself. In that case, switch to skim milk, tea or other low-fat fluids.
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106