Growing up my mother always told me that taking more Vitamin C would help prevent me from getting a cold. In fact, she always had me take a supplement pill with Vitamin C at the first signs of a "runny" nose. Going along with the saying "mother knows best", I always believed her. But did it actually work?
According to Linus Pauling's 1970 book, Vitamin C and the Common Cold, taking a supplement pill for Vitamin C will prevent the common cold. After his book, many people rushed to the store and took his advice. They believed him because his studies showed it worked.
However, his evidence could have been a fluke. Most recent evidence shows that his findings cannot be consistently replicated. In fact, they show that people will get a cold regardless of whether they take in extra Vitamin C. They also demonstrate that the intake of a supplement Vitamin C pill has no effect on cold symptoms (Examples of studies that demonstrate this point can be found here and here)
This demonstrates one of the Six Principles of Scientific Thinking: Replicability. This principle states that evidence from scientific experiments must be able to be duplicated consistently by multiple investigators. If it cannot be, the results should not be considered reliable.
Because multiple experiments could not replicate Pauling's original findings, his evidence should not be considered reliable. Therefore, the idea that a Vitamin C supplement pill will help prevent or reduce the symptoms of the common cold is incorrect.
So my mother was wrong; extra intake of Vitamin C will not necessarily prevent me from getting a cold. Now I have to wonder, how many other times has my mother NOT known best?
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