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Sick Australians flock to stock up on vitamins, but there is disagreement over whether they help. Australians spend more that $3.5 billion a year on so-called ‘complementary medicines and therapies’.
苏州美甲美睫培训学校

Consumer suffering from colds and the flu are spending millions of dollars on vitamins and supplements, which some medical experts say will likely do nothing to ease their ailments.

Australians spend more that $3.5 billion a year on so-called “complementary medicines and therapies”, according to the National Institute of Complementary Medicine, and the industry focuses winter-time trade on products that combat colds and the flu.

Swisse sells supplements that are “based on scientific and traditional evidence” and Blackmore’s products say they “may help to shorten the duration” of colds.

But there is wild disagreement in the medical community over whether these products – which can cost $20 for a one-week supply – are worth the money.

Dr Ken Harvey, adjunct associate professor at Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine, said the industry was “largely an evidence-free zone”.

He said there was a small amount of evidence that the most popular supplement, Vitamin C, could shorten the duration of a cold, but only by a couple of hours at best.

“The general conclusion from the scientific reviews are that for the average person, there’s no benefit in taking [Vitamin C] regularly during winter for prevention, and the benefits of taking it when you have a cold are sort of minimal,” Dr Harvey said.

There was some evidence that taking zinc might shorten a cold by “perhaps a day”, Dr Harvey said, but added that most products came in tablet form when the best method was to suck a zinc lozenge.

He said there was even less evidence that the herb echinacea could help.

“Although some studies have shown particular types of echinacea may have some benefits, you can’t really extrapolate that for whatever you might find at the chemist,” he said.

“So most of the products out there are really pretty useless.”

Dr Harvey quit his job at La Trobe University in 2014 in protest when it signed a $15 million deal with Swisse to research its products.

John Dwyer, Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales and president of group Friends of Science in Medicine, said very few Australians needed supplements other than the elderly and malnourished.

“The vast majority of Australians do not need vitamins and do not need supplements – they do nothing about the actual viral infection that causes the cold,” Dr Dwyer said.

“You can look to some symptomatic relief for your cough and your sore throat but consumers shouldn’t believe that any of the supplements or vitamins will do anything about the infection.”​

But others medical professionals maintained that vitamins could be beneficial.

“It’s not as simple as one remedy working for everybody, but there is evidence for things that most people know about: Vitamin C, zinc, echinacea, elderberry, andrographis – they all have evidence of treating the common cold,” said Marc Cohen, professor of Health Sciences at RMIT University.

“There’s no magic pill that’s going to restore your immunity. They should be seen as supporting your natural healing processes rather than replacing them.”

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