DEAR DOCTOR K: My mom always told me to take vitamin C and not to drink milk when I had a cold. Is this true or just an old wives' tale?
DEAR READER: The idea that vitamin C supplements might prevent the common cold, or shorten the duration and reduce its symptoms, was popularized by the biochemist Linus Pauling. Randomized controlled trials involving thousands of people were conducted. My interpretation of the results of those studies is that they showed no evidence that vitamin C supplements reduced the duration or severity of the common cold. There was weak evidence that they might reduce the risk of catching it.