In 1971, Linus Pauling carried out a meta-analysis of four placebo-controlled trials and concluded that it was highly unlikely that the decrease in the "integrated morbidity of the common cold" in vitamin C groups was caused by chance alone (P < 0.00003). Studies carried out since then have consistently found that vitamin C (> or = 1 g/d) alleviates common cold symptoms, indicating that the vitamin does indeed have physiologic effects on colds. However, widespread conviction that the vitamin has no proven effects on the common cold still remains. Three of the most influential reviews drawing this conclusion are considered in the present article. Two of them are cited in the current edition of the RDA nutritional recommendations as evidence that vitamin C is ineffective against colds. In this article, these three reviews are shown to contain serious inaccuracies and shortcomings, making them unreliable sources on the topic. The second purpose is to suggest possible conceptual reasons for the persistent resistance to the notion that vitamin C might have effects on colds. Although placebo-controlled trials have shown that vitamin C does alleviate common cold symptoms, important questions still remain.