Best Practice

Best Practice The Best Practice section, which was published until May 2006, summarized the current evidence on an important health intervention. PLOS Medicine no longer publishes this article type in the journal.

See all article types »

Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold

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

Reader Comments (5)

Post a new comment on this article

Common colds, mental instability and vitamin C metabolism

Posted by plosmedicine on 01 Apr 2009 at 10:45 GMT

Author of comment: Peter Tuharsky

This comment was emailed to the PLoS Medicine staff on 23 March 2009.

In order of Arunachalam Kumar's question on mentally ill patients and common cold and vitamin C connection, I'd like to add some points to the debate.

The saying of absence of common cold can indeed be understood by the means of clinical picture. However, absence of clinical signs of illness does not always indicate absence of infection.

Taking a more hollistic point of view, the clinical symptoms usually are simply the manifestations of immune system, reacting to the infection, that was already in place for some time before (an incubation period). Therefore, the absence of clinical symptoms might also be just a sign of incompetent immune system, unable to act, or Th2-oriented immune system, that has suppressed the inflamatory reactions in favor of antibody reactions. Either way, the infection can take a chronical or atypical disease course instead of normal one.

In summary, absence of typical signs of clinical illness can be interpreted both as consequence of robust, or incompetent or unbalanced immune system.[1,2] For the outside observer, it is quite impossible to decide.

Now the vitamin C, that has a regulatory function in any immune response indeed, thus any deviation on vitamin C metabolism can also pose a deviation on immune system function.[3,4] As of vitamin C metabolism connection to the mental illness, there are indications, that some types of mental disorder employ an extraordinary metabolism. For example, Klenner noted Vanderkamp's observations, that schizophrenics can utilize vitamin C 10-times faster than healthy persons -they can ingest 40 grams of vitamin C with no detectable spilling in urine, while healthy persons start spilling quite reliably with just 4-grams dose. Klenner compares this situation to severe virus infection.[3] Hoffer also describes, how most psychotic and schizophrenic patients spill extraordinary amounts of kryptopyrrole in urine. After treating for few days with massive doses of vitamin B3 (niacin) 1 gram 3 times daily, and vitamin C of about the same amount, both the spilling disappears and patients are clinically well.[5]

These experience indicate some metabolic deviation in these patients.

Surely it could be interesting to get some reliable data on the question, whether the observation "mentally ill don't get common cold" is true or not. We can however with certainity say, that mentally ill patients often do have extraordinary vitamin C metabolism, thus possibly having some difference in immune system function too. If the smaller common cold occurence is proven true, there could emerge several posible explanations, that one can speculate on:

-The patient's metabolism might demand much more vitamin C, and since the demand is not fullfilled by ordinary diet, their immune system is incompetent or unbalanced and unable to manifest acute inflammatory reaction against the infection. For the observer this might show as sign of clinically healthy person.

-The patient's metabolism is flawed in such way that the brain dosen't get enough vitamin C (possibly other vitamins too), thus the vitamin C availability for immune system is greater than in healthy people, thus the higher resistance to common cold.

[1] Incao P. How Vaccinations Work. May 5, 1999 Updated 2006. http://www.compwellness.n...

[2] Incao P. Understanding infection: Not a battle, but a housecleaning. September 2004. http://www.compwellness.n...

[3] Klenner FR. Significance of high daily intake of ascorbic acid in preventive medicine. J. Int. Acad. Prev. Med., 1:45-49, 1974.

[4] Bourne GH. Vitamin C and Immunity. British Journal of Nutrition, Volume 2, Issue 04, Dec 1949, pp 341-347 doi: 10.1079/BJN19480063, Published online by Cambridge University Press 09 Mar 2007. http://journals.cambridge...

[5] Hoffer A. Hoffer on Cancer. Hoffer's Home Page -Orthomolecular Treatment of Cancer. December 26, 1999.

No competing interests declared.