The Vitamin C Placebo

Vitamin C is not going to help your immunity against Coronavirus, or is it?

Vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid) is an unlikely vitamin supplement to help people fight off the common cold, let alone the Coronavirus. The dietary supplement was first recommended by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling (American chemist, biochemist, a chemical engineer, nuclear activist and later author). Paulings 1970s claim advocated taking elevated doses of Vitamin C, as a cure-all for anything ranging from the common cold to preventing a wide range of cancer, heart disease, strokes, mental illness, old age, diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease and hepatitis. ? Sounds incredible.

While a Nobel prize-winning titan in the field of biochemistry, Pauling’s lent his authority in later years to authoring books and lectures about “megavitamin therapy”, and “dietary supplements” where cure-all Vitamin C theory started. Scepticism from the scientific community in Pauling’s out of field suggestions which simply did not stand up to wider scientific scrutiny and thus were openly refuted.

A more recent study by Cochrane on vitamin C (conducted over 11,306 participants in 2013) the conclusions found that Vitamin C supplements may reduce the duration of illness by up to 8% in adults and 14% in children, but the daily supplements did little to reduce infection or elevate immunity. Thus supplementing with Vitamin C under active infection may shorten the duration of the common cold yet did very little to prevent or alleviate the symptoms.

These reduction timeframes may also be attributed to a number of factors that included psychological placebo effects in that Vitamin C carries in society believing in Vitamin C was an effective “immunity booster”. This same study further found that people under stressful situations were more likely to contract viral infections than those that did not have elevated stress levels.

Of course, we are talking about the common cold and not Coronavirus where there are some distinct differences in immune system attack, but viral infections do share similar traits.

In the wake of the COVID-19 Linus Pauling Institute (who researches and advocates of elevated Vitamin C intakes) issued the following statement.

“there currently are no available data to show vitamin C can prevent or successfully treat COVID-19 infections.”

Full Statement

The placebo effect is where patients are given either an active drug or a sugar pill to cure an identified ailment. Under the right circumstances, the placebo (sugar pill) can sometimes be just as effective as the actual active drug treatment itself.

Most importantly the placebo effect establishes many links between the mind, body, nervous and immune systems and is frequently extrapolated to explain a great many theories that evade proof.

Effectively people getting better by simply believing that the substance that they were taking was helping them get better (even if it was a sugar pill) is one of the many contentious points where psychological belief systems cross the contentious line into Western Medications.

This is a direct challenge a great deal of our conventional wisdom and core belief systems around the stuff that cured the scurvy sailors of old. To say these facts err cautiously between the realms of belief, medical science and pop psychology is hardly an understatement.

Our socialized “conventional wisdom” and “core belief systems” are the critical action points on which we as human beings seek authoritative advice from figures such as trusted doctors, peers, friends or family, to validate or recommend a remedy to diseases that we don’t fully understand. This is especially relevant in the case of new mega viruses where the only defence involves building the immune system to withstand infection.

The psychosocial perpetuated belief that something that will “make you better” carries added weight when doctors or family make absolute recommendations for specific drugs and supplements.

Inadvertently taking credit of the success of a far more complex immune system action than we understand.

Pauling’s Vitamin C recommendations and the subsequent counter studies that prove it’s inefficiency have inadvertently opened the door to a deeper discussion around actively starting to move mental health up our checkbox list in building our natural immunity without the assistance of pharmaceutical interventions.

The reality is that we are still in the dark when it comes to novel zoologic viruses such as Coronavirus or any auto-immune deficiency based illnesses like HIV.

We are naturally inclined as human beings to reject or react to information that challenges or does not quite fit with our embedded and inherited belief systems.

As you may well know, mankind’s failsafe to deal with viruses is the human immune system. The immune system is a complex system that is affected by many things chiefly affected by stress.

“Stress” is a perfectly natural and normal response and if you are going to learn a number of facts about stress that play into the human existence and stresses role in naturally strengthening your immune system against bugs like COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

Your mind-body systems

Your immune system is a complex web of cells, organs, tissues and your mind that is intrinsically connected by your nervous system responses.

Viruses are nothing new to us. Our species has survived thousands of virus outbreaks some more successful than others, what COVID-19 (Coronavirus) teaches us as a species is that we need to start paying some real attention to how we have been living to date.


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