It’s that time of year when we are bombarded by treatments for cold and flu season. The quackery includes things like “immune-boosting” miracle supplements to junk that “cures” every single virus known to medical science.
This article will attempt to debunk the myths of treatments for cold and flu such as “boosting the immune system,” magical supplements, and other nonsense involved with the world of cold and flu pseudoscience.
Of course, the best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine. And since the vaccine is free (at least in the USA), it’s infinitely cheaper than fake, useless cold and flu treatments.
One of the frequently made claims from the alternative medicine world is that vitamin C prevents cancer. Or cures cancer. But is there any real science behind vitamin C and cancer?
Of course, there are over hundreds of different cancers, each with a different etiology, pathophysiology, and prognosis, so it’s rather difficult to believe that vitamin C has that much effect on any of those cancers. But the claims, and their adherents, persist despite the lack of robust evidence supporting these claims.
Frankly, there are just a handful of ways to prevent cancer. One of those ways, eating a balanced diet, implies consuming appropriate amounts of nutrients, like vitamin C, I suppose. But does it mean that taking a handful of vitamin C tablets has some beneficial effect on cancer prevention or treatment? Well, let’s take a look.
I occasionally have to defend vaccine profits (or the lack thereof), but everyone seems to ignore Big Supplement profits which are far larger than vaccine profits. And vaccines have real science backing them, which is not a statement you can make about Big Supplement.
Let’s take a moment and look at the revenues and profits of Big Pharma (and a bit of Big Vaccine) and Big Supplement. The former has to work hard and provide evidence of what its drugs do, while the latter basically can sit around and throw darts at various claims, then randomly assign those claims to some new or old supplement.
It’s that time of year when we are bombarded by virus treatments for everything from the flu and colds to COVID-19. The quackery includes things like “immune-boosting” miracle supplements to junk that “cures” every single virus known to medical science.
This article will attempt to debunk the myths of virus treatments such as “boosting the immune system,” magical supplements, and other nonsense involved with the world of flu treatment pseudoscience.
Of course, the best way to prevent the flu or COVID-19 is to get the vaccines. And since these vaccines are free, it’s infinitely cheaper than fake, useless virus treatments.
One of our favorite alternative medicine quacks, Dr. Joe Mercola, DO, has been warned by the FDA to cease promoting useless COVID-19 treatments. This is not the first time that Dr. Mercola has run afoul of the FDA, and given his past activities, I doubt it’s his last.
The FDA told Joe Mercola that three products he markets with COVID-19 treatment claims are are “unapproved new drugs” and “misbranded drugs” being sold in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The three products are – Liposomal Vitamin C, Liposomal Vitamin D3, and Quercetin and Pterostilbene Advanced.
In case you don’t feel like reading what Joe Mercola has done this time, I’ll save you a bit of time. There is no evidence that any of these products do anything to treat COVID-19. But let’s take a look at Mercola and his quack treatments.
Many of the good people who read this blog understand that the flu is a very dangerous disease. In the USA, the CDC estimates that the flu season every year results in 12 to 56 thousand deaths and 140 to 710 thousand hospitalizations. It is not a trivial disease that can be easily ignored. Let me be frank – your best, and really, the only choice to prevent the flu is getting the seasonal flu vaccine. And, it is the only method to boost your or your children’s immune system against the flu.
These ineffective treatments exist for one reason – money. Cold and flu treatments are a significant part of the estimated global US$278 billion supplement and nutraceutical industry. And the industry is largely unregulated, so they can make unsupported claims about things like flu treatments, and people buy them based on the pseudoscience and false claims.
It’s that time of year when dozens of common cold treatments are all over the place. On TV advertisements. On displays in your pharmacy. Once again, it’s time to take a look at these lotions and potions to determine which work and which are complete pseudoscientific nonsense.
There are literally a dozen or more homeopathic, herbal, and other unproven concoctions to prevent or treat the common cold, caused by rhinovirus. These common cold treatments are a significant part of the estimated global US$278 billion supplement and nutraceutical industry.
These alternative medicine – so named because there is no scientific evidence supporting their efficacy, let alone safety – products make claims that are so wonderful, many people take them. Then they themselves tell their friends how fast they got rid of their cold. Or that their cold wasn’t as bad after taking the supplement.
Essentially, the whole industry is mostly based on anecdotes, untested claims and the placebo effect. Colds are self-limiting infections, meaning an infection generally lasts some random amount of time, with most people recovering within 7-10 days.
We’re going to review some of the most well-known common cold treatments (there isn’t enough time to review them all), along with what real science says about them in high quality systematic reviews in peer-reviewed, high impact medical journals. This article will review all of the common cold treatments that seem to be out there. Spoiler alert – most don’t work.
It’s getting colder outside, and if you go into any pharmacy, grocery store, chemist, or superstore, you will find literally a dozen or more homeopathic, herbal, or other unproven lotions and potions to prevent or treat the common cold, or rhinovirus. These supplements are a significant part of the annual US$108 billion dollar supplement/nutraceutical industry.
These alternative medicine (so named because there is no scientific evidence supporting their efficacy, let alone safety) products make claims that are so wonderful, many people take them. Then they themselves tell their friends how fast they got rid of their cold. Or that their cold wasn’t as bad after taking the supplement.
The problem is that determine the length and severity of the course of the common cold is entirely subjective. Since the disease is rather mild with few serious complications, it’s hard to determine when it exactly stopped and started, and how bad it was. The common cold tends to resolve itself without external help, but there really isn’t much you can do to make your immune system attack that cold faster.
I’ve never been a fan of vitamin supplements. Aside from a very few supplements intended for a few specific clinical conditions, like vitamin C and scurvy, they have little use in preventing or treating diseases. In fact, because mammalian physiology has evolved a homeostasis for these chemicals, any excess amount that can’t be stored in the fat or other tissue is cleared by the kidneys and becomes part of your urine. I’m willing to venture that the urine of many Americans is quite expensive, with all of the cleared vitamins and other micronutrients. A balanced diet over several weeks is sufficient to provide the body with all of the nutrients and vitamins to be healthy and strong. You are not even required to have all vitamins and nutrients every day, as storage of a few nutrients will be released as necessary, and clinical manifestations of nutrient deficiency may take weeks or months.