Vitamins and supplements have a variety of proven benefits, from strengthening bones to aiding digestion. While some vitamins, such as zinc, help strengthen the immune system, can they fight infections like coronavirus?
Hannah Smith, RD, CDN, clinical nutrition manager of Rochester Regional Health’s Eastern Region, discusses zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D, their impact on our immune systems, and whether or not they can protect against COVID-19.
Vitamins and the Immune System
While vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters, zinc and vitamin D have proven benefits to immune health, as well.
“Micronutrients like vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc help boost immune health. They work in a variety of ways to help your immune system fight off illness,” said Smith.
However, vitamins alone are not a solution to immune health.
“It’s important to eat a balanced diet of whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals, drink a lot of water, get a lot of sleep, and exercise regularly.”
Can Vitamins Fight COVID-19 Infection?
There is no current evidence that vitamins or nutrients can protect against COVID-19 infection.
Although vitamins are proven to help strengthen the immune system, there is not enough research to determine whether they reduce the risk of infection.
While zinc helps strengthen the immune system, there is no evidence that it can help prevent or fight COVID-19.
“High-dose zinc has been demonstrated to reduce how long cold symptoms last, which shows that it supports the immune system,” said Smith. “However, it cannot be proven a method of protection against infections like COVID-19.”
While people believe that vitamin C can help fight the common cold, research shows that it does not actually reduce the risk of illness—it may only reduce the severity and length of symptoms. There is no known correlation between vitamin C intake and COVID-19 infection severity or symptoms.
There have been several studies to find the impact of vitamin D on the immune system’s ability to fight COVID-19 infection. Recently, a study made up of 489 participants found that those who had vitamin D deficiency were more likely to test positive for COVID-19. However, the research is insufficient to determine the role vitamin D plays in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
Health organizations, like the Food and Drug Administration, have not confirmed that any vitamin or supplement can be consumed to protect against or fight off coronavirus. However, taking the recommended amount of vitamins can help several aspects of health.
“Although vitamins are not proven to protect against COVID-19 infection, they are a great way to ensure your body has all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy,” explained Smith.
How to Best Protect Against COVID-19 Infection
“While vitamins and supplements cannot prevent or treat COVID-19, there are plenty of ways to help protect yourself and your loved ones from the illness,” said Dr. Emil Lesho, epidemiologist at Rochester Regional Health.
Following health and safety guidelines remains important and our community continues to batter coronavirus:
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