Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to protect themselves from illness.This pandemic is no exception — especially with screaming headlines. “This supplement can save you from the coronavirus.”
It also helps to have celebrity lovers. When President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, his pill arsenal contained vitamin D and zinc. And in an Instagram chat with actress Jennifer Garner in September, infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci generally advertised vitamins C and D as potential ways to boost the immune system. “If you are deficient in vitamin D, it affects your susceptibility to infections,” he said. I can recommend, and I take vitamin D supplements and do it myself. “
However, it is not clear whether over-the-counter supplements can actually prevent or treat COVID-19. The disease is so new that researchers do not spend much time on large-scale experiments that provide the best answer. Instead, scientists have largely relied on new takes of old data. Several studies have examined the outcomes of patients taking certain supplements on a daily basis and have found some promising tips. However, so far, there is little data from scientifically rigorous experiments that give physicians confidence in recommending supplements.
This is what we know today about the three supplements that are getting a lot of attention for COVID-19.
what is that: It is called a “sunshine vitamin” because the body naturally makes it in the presence of UV light, Vitamin D is one of the most well-studied supplement(SN: 1/27/19). Certain foodsIt is also rich in vitamins, including fish and fortified dairy products.
Why it might help: Vitamin D is a hormonal component that helps strengthen the immune system.
How it works against other infections: In 2017, British Medical Journal Published a meta-analysis suggesting daily vitamin D supplements May help prevent respiratory infectionsEspecially for people who are deficient in vitamins.
But one keyword here is There is a shortage. The risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes, and among people with darker skin (melanin, higher pigments on darker skin, inhibits vitamin D production).
“If you have enough vitamin D in your body, there’s no evidence that giving you more makes a real difference,” said Susan Lanham New, head of nutrition science at the University of Surrey, England. Says. ..
Ingestion too much can also create new health problems, stress certain internal organs, and cause dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600-800 IU per day, with an upper limit of 4,000 IU per day.
What We Know About Vitamin D and COVID-19: Few studies have directly investigated whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.
In May BMJ nutrition, prevention and health, Lanham-New and her colleague Summary of existing evidence He concluded that it was sufficient to recommend vitamin D to help prevent COVID-19 for people who are deficient. The paper inferred from how vitamin D acts on other respiratory tract infections and immune health.
Today, more than 12 studies are testing vitamin D directly for prevention and treatment, including a large study led by vitamin D guru JoAnn Manson. Epidemiologist and preventive medicine physician at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The study analyzes whether vitamin D can affect the course of COVID-19 infection. trial We are recruiting 2,700 people across the United States who are newly diagnosed with infectious diseases and aim to build close relationships with households.
The goal is whether newly diagnosed people who receive high doses of vitamin D (3,200 IU per day) experience less severe symptoms on placebo than those who require hospitalization. Is to judge. “Given the theoretical ability of nutrients to prevent the severe inflammatory response that can follow a coronavirus infection, the biological relevance of the benefits of COVID is compelling,” she says. “But the evidence is not definitive at this time.”
what is that: Zinc is a mineral found in cells throughout the body and is naturally found in certain meats, beans and oysters.
Why it might help: It plays some supportive role in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always a hot seller during the cold and flu season. Zinc also aids in cell division and growth.
How it works against other infections: Research on the use of zinc for colds Often caused by the coronavirus — suggesting that using supplements shortly after the onset of symptoms may cause the symptoms to disappear sooner.However, clinical trials by Finnish and British researchers began in January. BMJ Open No zinc lozenge value found For the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that the discrepancy in cold data can be explained by varying the amount of zinc released in different lozenges.
What we know about zinc and COVID-19: This mineral is promising enough to be added to the early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Since then, research has shown that Hydroxychloroquine cannot prevent or treat COVID-19 (((SN: 8/2/20). )
In July, a researcher at the University of Aachen in Germany wrote: Immunology Frontier The current evidence is “strong Suggests great benefits of zinc It is based on the investigation of similar infectious diseases, including SARS, another disease caused by the coronavirus. For example, studies suggest that zinc feeding reduces the risk of death from a pneumonia infection. Researchers cite evidence that zinc can help prevent the virus from entering the body and, if it does, delay the replication of the virus.
Another review based on indirect evidence was published on August 1st Advances in integrative medicine Also, May be useful for people who are deficient in zinc..
Researcher at Barcelona Hospital Delmarin in September Reported study in 249 patientsThose who survived COVID had higher plasma zinc levels than those who died (43 mcg / dl) (mean 63.1 mcg / dl).
But overall, there are no juries yet, says Suma Thomas, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. He led the team in June. Confirmed evidence of popular supplements In Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.. Given what is already known, zinc may reduce the duration of infection, but it may not reduce the severity of the symptoms, she said. Currently, about 12 studies are considering zinc for the treatment of COVID, often using other drugs and supplements.
Thomas and her colleague Comparison of symptom severity and future hospitalization Patients with COVID-19 who take zinc with or without high doses of vitamin C and receive regular care without supplements. The results are expected soon, she says.
what is that: Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, has a long list of roles in the body. It is naturally found in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, peppers and tomatoes.
Why it helps: It is a powerful antioxidant that is important for a healthy immune system and prevention of inflammation.
How it works against other infections: Thomas warns that data on vitamin C are often inconsistent.One review from Chinese researchers, in February Journal of Medical Virology, look What is already known about vitamin C And other supplements that may play a role in the treatment of COVID-19. Among other promising signs, human studies have found that the incidence of pneumonia is low among people taking vitamin C, “vitamin C leads to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions. It suggests that it may prevent susceptibility to. “
But to prevent colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies Did not support the idea That vitamin C supplement may help the general public. However, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, the authors said, “It may be worthwhile to individually test whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial for patients with common colds. Hmm. “
What We Know About Vitamin C and COVID-19: Approximately 12 studies are underway or planned to determine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment can help with symptoms and survival, including Thomas’s study at the Cleveland Clinic.
In a review published online in July Nutrition, Belgian KU Leuven researchers, Vitamins may help prevent infection Based on what is known about how nutrients work in the body, it suppresses dangerous inflammatory reactions that can cause severe symptoms.
Sarah Michienji, a pharmacist and colleague specializing in viral infections at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, detailed all the supplements that could help with the coronavirus epidemic.There is There is still not enough evidence to know if they are useful, The pair ended in July Drugs depending on the situation.. “It’s not really clear if it benefits patients,” says Badowski.
Supplements are generally safe, but she adds that nothing is risk-free. The best way to avoid infection is to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health professionals. “Wash your hands, wear a mask, and stay 6 feet away.”
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