Linus Pauling, Ph.D. (1901-1994), was the only person ever to win two unshared Nobel prizes. He received these awards for chemistry in 1954 and for peace in 1962. He contributed greatly to the development of chemical theories. His impact on the health marketplace, however, was anything but laudable.
Pauling is largely responsible for the widespread misbelief that high doses of vitamin C are effective against colds and other illnesses. In 1968, he postulated that people’s needs for vitamins and other nutrients vary markedly and that to maintain good health, many people need amounts of nutrients much greater than the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs). And he speculated that megadoses of certain vitamins and minerals might well be the treatment of choice for some forms of mental illness. He termed this approach “orthomolecular,” meaning “right molecule.” After that, he steadily expanded the list of illnesses he believed could be influenced by “orthomolecular” therapy and the number of nutrients suitable for such use. No responsible medical or nutrition scientists share these views.
full text: The Dark Side of Linus Pauling’s Legacy by Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Regular ingestion of vitamin C had no effect on common cold incidence in the ordinary population, based on 29 trial comparisons involving 11,306 participants. However, regular supplementation had a modest but consistent effect in reducing the duration of common cold symptoms, which is based on 31 study comparisons with 9745 common cold episodes. In five trials with 598 participants exposed to short periods of extreme physical stress (including marathon runners and skiers) vitamin C halved the common cold risk. The published trials have not reported adverse effects of vitamin C.
Trials of high doses of vitamin C administered therapeutically, starting after the onset of symptoms, showed no consistent effect on the duration or severity of common cold symptoms. However, only a few therapeutic trials have been carried out and none have examined children, although the effect of prophylactic vitamin C has been greater in children. One large trial with adults reported benefit from an 8 g therapeutic dose at the onset of symptoms, and two therapeutic trials using five-day supplementation reported benefit. More trials are necessary to settle the possible role of therapeutic vitamin C, meaning administration immediately after the onset of symptoms.