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Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold

  • Published: June 28, 2005
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020168

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Mental instability, vitamin C and immunity to common colds

Posted by plosmedicine on 30 Mar 2009 at 23:44 GMT

Author: Arunachalam Kumar
Position: Professor of Anatomy
Institution: Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore 575001, India
Submitted Date: August 01, 2005
Published Date: August 1, 2005
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

In some parts of India, many a distressed mother totes her infant to the outpatient pediatrics departments, with complaint that her child has not contracted the common cold for a few months. Complaint? Not contracting a cold, is a worrisome one, at least here. High levels of illiteracy, prevalent socio-economic conditions, and cultural anthropological mores have given much currency to the peculiar theory that implicates development of insanity in those exempt from attacks of the common cold virus. The belief is spread widely across the population, and has been around for a long time. While it is easy (and perhaps even justified) in dismissing offhand the presumed connection between mental stability and frequency of episodes of common cold, the fact remains that many, even among the highly educated and modern also attach much credence to this popular mystical hypothesis.

Over the decades I have delved, among others, into history of dietary habits, family history of mental status, intake levels of Vitamin C enriched, caste and community perceptions on disease and treatment, but yet unable to establish any link between the frequency of attacks of cold, to a later manifestation of mental derangements. The latter, I have tried to quantify, by looking for falls academic performances, or behavior changes among children, and again, failed to find any correlations.

I am still curious as to whether there is some, yet unknown link between Vitamin C intake level, common cold frequency and cerebration status. One highly educated indignant mother was quite put off by my pooh-poohing her worry: she countered by querying - Have you ever seen an insane patient with a common cold?

Noting my mystified expression, she continued - You couldnt have doctor, for insanity provides immunity against many viral afflictions, including that of the cold. So what is funny about my belief that the cold virus protects my child against mental health degeneration?

Coming to think of it, I have yet to see any mentally ill patient with a runny nose. I would be interested to know more about this incredible theory from others more experienced in the field and with better expertise on the subject. The article by Douglas RM & Hemila H (2005) does show there is some correlation of significance between immunity to common cold and status of physique and physical activity,the why would it too fanciful if one were to extend the inference as applicable to mental health and activity also?

Is there a connection between mental faculties and frequency of attacks of common cold in the general population, and the status of frequency of common colds in mental asylums and facilities? And what role does level of Vitamin C rich diet play in all this?

Competing interests declared: I declare that I have no competing interests