Vitamins: Debunking the Myths

Once upon a time, you believed in the tooth fairy. You counted on the stability of housing prices and depended on bankers to be, well, dependable. And you figured that taking vitamins was good for you. Oh, it’s painful when another myth gets shattered. Recent research suggests that a daily multi is a waste of money for most people—and there’s growing evidence that some other old standbys may even hurt your health. Here’s what you need to know.

Myth:

vitamin C is a cold fighter

Buyers Beware!

In the 1970s, Nobel laureate Linus Pauling popularized the idea that vitamin C could prevent colds. Today, drugstores are full of vitamin C–based remedies. Studies say: Buyer, beware.

In 2007, researchers analyzed a raft of studies going back several decades and involving more than 11,000 subjects to arrive at a disappointing conclusion: Vitamin C didn’t ward off colds, except among marathoners, skiers, and soldiers on subarctic exercises.

Of course, prevention isn’t the only game in town. Can the vitamin cut the length of colds? Yes and no. Taking the vitamin daily does seem to reduce the time you’ll spend sniffling—but not enough to notice. Adults typically have cold symptoms for 12 days a year; a daily pill could cut that to 11 days. Kids might go from 28 days of runny noses to 24 per year. The researchers conclude that minor reductions like these don’t justify the expense and bother of year-round pill-popping (taking C only after symptoms crop up doesn’t help).

Can vitamin pills prevent heart disease?... 

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