So-called cold fighting vitamins are ineffective among older men who smoke, according to the findings of a new report. Researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland said they could find no positive effects from vitamin C or E or beta-carotene among male smokers.
Writing in the January issue of the journal Epidemiology, Dr. Harri Hemila and colleagues said that they had found that small number of the men taking part in the study - those over the age of 65 - showed a correlation between vitamin E intake and the chance of catching colds, but that the figures were so small that the evidence was at best inconclusive. The link was strongest for men living in cities who smoked fewer than 15 cigarettes a day.
Hemila's team focused on a group of 22,000 male smokers aged 50 to 69 in an attempt to discover whether a supplement of 50mg of vitamin E and 20mg of beta-carotene had any effect on their likelihood of catching cancer. The men were also asked about the number of colds they had had during the same period.
Previous studies have shown that vitamin C might be able to help combat the common cold, while vitamin E is thought to strengthen the immune system.
"Although vitamins C and E may affect susceptibility to respiratory infections in restricted groups of subjects under special circumstances, the results of the present analysis and the findings of several other studies indicate that such sub-populations are not large in the western countries," Hemila's team concluded.