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Am J Med. 1975 Apr;58(4):532-6.

Effects of ascorbic acid on the common cold. An evaluation of the evidence.


Of 14 clinical trials of ascorbic acid in the prevention and treatment of the common cold, the data from 8 were considered well enough gathered to be creditable and to warrant combining for an over-all assessment of efficacy. Differences in mean prorated numbers of colds per year and durations of illness were 0.09 plus or minus 0.06 (plus or minus 1 standard error) and 0.11 plus or minus 0.24, respectively, favoring ascorbic acid over the placebo. These are minor and insignificant differences, but in most studies the severity of symptoms was significantly worse in the patients who received the placebo. In one study lasting 9 months, a large number of the volunteers tasted their capsules and correctly guessed what group they were in. All differences in severity and duration were eliminated by analyzing only the data from those who did not know which drug they were taking. Since there are no data on the long-term toxicity of ascorbic acid when given in doses of 1 g or more per day, it is concluded that the minor benefits of questionable validity are not worth the potential risk, no matter how small that might be.

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