The coronavirus is such an uncertain illness that most of us are willing to do whatever we can to protect ourselves from getting the virus—or at least staving off a serious case. That’s why so many people have turned to vitamins and supplements as a natural way to give their immune system a level-up in the fight against COVID. Unfortunately, this may just be wishful thinking. A new study published Feb. 12 in JAMA Network Open just confirmed that certain common vitamins won’t stop your COVID symptoms after all. Read on to find out which vitamins researchers say won’t actually help you, and for vitamins that you should be taking, These 3 Vitamins Could Save You From Severe COVID, Study Finds.
Researchers for this study gathered 214 coronavirus patients recovering from COVID at-home. At random, some subjects were assigned to receive high doses of either zinc, vitamin C, or both supplements for 10 days. The other patients received no supplements and only standard care, like rest, hydration, and fever-reducing medications. However, the study was stopped early because the researchers saw “no significant difference” in the reduction of symptoms from those who received one or two of the supplements compared to those who received neither supplements.
“Unfortunately, these two supplements failed to live up to their hype,” Erin Michos, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Miguel Cainzos-Achirica, MD, an associate director of preventive cardiology research at Houston Methodist, wrote in a statement accompanying the study. And for more ways you’re not being protected, If You See This on Your Mask, the FDA Says Toss It Immediately.
Not only was there no evidence that these supplements help those infected with COVID—patients taking vitamin C and zinc reported unpleasant side effects. “More adverse effects (nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps) were reported in the supplement groups than in the usual care group,” Michos and Cainzo-Achirica wrote in their statement.
According to the researchers, zinc can produce a metallic taste, dry mouth, and gastrointestinal intolerance when given in high doses. High doses of vitamin C can also cause gastrointestinal intolerance—which was explicitly seen in this study, as a higher proportion of patients receiving the large dose of vitamin C reported nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. And for more reactions to be aware of, If You Have These Vaccine Side Effects, Don’t Get Another Shot, CDC Says.
Both vitamin C and zinc are over-the-counter supplements that help boost the immune system, which is why some experts have suggested them as possible treatments in the fight against COVID, the authors noted. Even former President Donald Trump reportedly received zinc to help treat his coronavirus symptoms, per a report from The New York Times.
But overall, the research on taking these supplements to help with infection is still uncertain. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitamin C supplements do not lower the risk of getting the common cold for most people. However, people who take vitamin C regularly “might have slightly shorter colds or somewhat milder symptoms when they do have a cold.” As for zinc, the institute says that research has been conflicting and this supplement may only be beneficial against the common cold “under certain circumstances.” And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
While vitamin C and zinc may be out of the picture in terms of COVID health, other vitamins are still being researched. In fact, a January study published in Angewandte Chemie, the journal of the German Chemical Society, found that three common vitamins could help more severe cases of COVID: vitamin D, vitamin K, and vitamin A. Other research has found that those with lower vitamin K levels were more likely to be hospitalized with severe COVID, while lacking vitamin D could make someone more likely to get infected in the first place.
This research had White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, touting the importance of maintaining adequate vitamin levels. “If you’re deficient in vitamin D, that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection. I would not mind recommending—and I do it myself—taking vitamin D supplements,” Fauci said during an Instagram Live interview with actor Jennifer Garner in Sept. 2020. And for more expert insight, Dr. Fauci Says These Are the COVID Symptoms That Don’t Go Away.