Does vitamin C really prevent the common cold?

Vitamin C Common Cold Health Myth Weekly Show Pills Supplements Oranges Citrus

Gluten-free. Low carbs. Vitamin supplements. While some of these habits have demonstrable benefits, some seem a little…weird. For instance, what would you say if I told you eating fifty-one bananas a day was the key to healthy living? Many people swear by obscure diets and practices without researching what they actually do. Let’s examine a common one: vitamin C’s ability to cure the common cold.

In 1970 famed chemist Linus Pauling published Vitamin C and the Common Cold, the culmination of his studies on vitamin C. Pauling advocated high intake of the vitamin to prevent the common cold, and in the following years championed oral and intravenous doses to increase the longevity of terminally ill cancer patients. According to his trials, vitamin C intake extended the patients’ survival as much as four times.

Vitamin C Common Cold Health Myth Weekly Show Pills Supplements Oranges Citrus

Pauling’s claims have been widely rebuked by the medical community.

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Misconceptions about evolution: why species are not “getting better”

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Part 5 in a series. Click here for part 4: why natural selection is not random

Things have felt a bit different lately. Perhaps it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the new baseball season. No? Oh, I’ve got it—it’s been too long since we had a Misconceptions About Evolution!

Evolution of Mario Video Games Nintendo NES WII N64 Gamecube Sunshine Brawl Super Bros Weekly Show

Oftentimes, the older version of a mascot or species seems better. Things were simpler back then.

My freshman year of college I had a floormate named Steve. Steve’s man goal in life was to get better—no matter the subject, his aim was to come out more accomplished than he came in. Everything Steve did had this goal in mind—he studied, exercised, and ate with more fervor than the competition, and sure enough he became slightly better. Well done, Steve.

Many see evolution in the same light. Species are constantly getting better, improving themselves to become evolutionarily superior…except not quite. Much like Steve’s devotion to self-improvement, there is much more to this than meets the eye.

Why species are not “getting better”

Let’s recall the basic ideas behind evolution. Over time a species’ genetic makeup changes. These alterations stem from mutations, outside pressures, and statistical phenomena. While many of these changes have little effect, some can increase an individual’s chances of survival and reproduction. Let’s use the example of a fish with improved eyesight. Our seafaring friend will be able to better identify food and predators, which will in turn increase his odds of survival.

As our fish reproduces, some of his offspring carry his new trait. These little fish again survive more often than the others, and in time a sizable portion of the fish population will have better eyesight. This is the beauty of natural selection. So far, it seems the Steve analogy applies—our fish friends are getting better.

Now imagine the lake experiences an algae outbreak. Microorganisms cloud the surface, cloaking the water in darkness. Our fishes’ eyesight, previously an optimal trait, can hardly make out anything at all. This is a bad day to be a fish. Any that relied on eyesight will either starve or find themselves in the belly of a predator.

So what happened? Even though the fish’s vision allowed it to thrive in direct sunlight, it became useless in the dark. An ability advantageous in one situation proved ineffective in another. This is the key to understanding natural selection—species adapt to their environments. This includes everything from amount of sunlight to terrain and predators. Unfortunately for Steve, “getting better” has no meaning in natural selection.

As for our fish friends, their future is uncertain. Maybe individuals with better hearing will find higher rates of survival in the new world. Perhaps the population will die out. It all depends on the fishes’ surroundings and which traits ensure higher chances of survival.

So there’s a bit of Misconceptions About Evolution to brighten your day. Is this surprising? Confusing? Remarkably good looking? Let me know in the comments below. As always—you know the drill, so please share, like, comment, and subscribe if you like the post! Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday. IT’S FREE!

Comment question of the week

Are human beings currently “getting better?” Why or why not?

You might also like:

Misconceptions About Evolution: Why Natural Selection Is Not Random

Everything In Science Is Wrong

Misconceptions About Evolution: Why Transitional Fossils Exist

In the news:

When Evolution’s Controversial, Declaring a State Fossil Can Get Tricky (Smithsonian)

10 Ways Life Has Adapted to Its Environment (Discovery)

Congressional Candidate Claims He’s Running to Stop Schools From Teaching Evolution (ThinkProgress)

Bunnies: little Hitlers in disguise?

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One year ago I published my initial study on the coming bunny apocalypse. The culmination of years of work, it proved these balls of fluff are out to get us.  Furthermore, my research correctly predicted the coming Human-Bunny Clash of 2014. These creatures want blood—and that’s just the beginning.

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The truth about high-fructose corn syrup

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If you took part in the soft drink industry pre-1977, you probably remember pull-tabs, awesome Coke ads, and that beautiful, sugar flavor. You see, back in the good old days soft-drink manufacturers sweetened their beverages with pure beet and cane sugar. Coke and Pepsi may have contained their share of additives, but as far as sweetness was concerned they were all natural.

In 1977, however, a string of sugar tariffs and quotas drove US prices to new highs. Soft drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. saw profits slide as the cost of sugar ate into their margins. Naturally, the companies turned their attention toward cheaper alternatives, which they found in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. The sweetener, a simple alteration to regular corn syrup, provides almost identical taste for a fraction of the cost. The rest of the food industry soon caught on, and high-fructose corn syrup has become a staple on supermarket shelves.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Health Truth Bad Terrible Death Heart Fat Obesity Weekly Show

Believe it or not, high-fructose corn syrup sweetens an overwhelming proportion of American foods.

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Happy holidays! Your vitamins may be killing you

Pills Supplements Multivitamins Vitamins Health Industry Benefits Harm Damage Danger FDA Regulated Snake Oil

Happy holidays, everyone! I hope everyone is enjoying family, friends, and time to catch up on what really matters. We all have a lot of things to do, so I’m going to keep this post short and sweet: if you want to see many more holiday seasons, throw out your daily multivitamins.

According to new research, multivitamin supplements produce no health benefits and might even be harmful. Three major studies examined multivitamins’ effectiveness in preventing chronic disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. While researchers across the board found no benefits associated with the supplements, one study recommended against taking vitamin E or beta-carotene to prevent heart disease or cancer, finding they may put already at-risk individuals in increased danger.

Pills Supplements Multivitamins Vitamins Health Industry Benefits Harm Damage Danger FDA Regulated Snake Oil

New studies confirm that multivitamins, like most unregulated supplements, contain no health benefits. In other news, the above is not a complete breakfast. (Shutterstock)

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