TOLEDO, Ohio — Taking a few extra vitamins while dealing with a case of COVID-19 certainly seems to make sense. However, researchers from the University of Toledo suggest immune-boosting supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc do virtually nothing to lower a patient’s risk of dying from coronavirus.
When COVID-19 first emerged in early 2020, many doctors and healthcare providers attempted to fight the virus with any number of various micronutrients. Many have also claimed online — despite lacking scientific evidence to back up their assertions — that immune-boosting supplements containing vitamin C and zinc can serve as a suitable replacement for COVID-19 vaccines.
This study’s authors, who reviewed a new set of COVID-19 hospitalization data to formulate this review, warn that there is no real evidence that supplements actually treat or lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
“A lot of people have this misconception that if you load up on zinc, vitamin D or vitamin C, it can help the clinical outcome of COVID-19,” says Dr. Azizullah Beran, an internal medicine resident at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, in a university release. “That hasn’t been shown to be true.”
Vitamin D may offer some protection
The general medical consensus states that micronutrient supplements are not an effective treatment for COVID. This latest study provides even more evidence in support of that view. Researchers analyzed 26 global peer-reviewed studies encompassing 5,600 hospitalized COVID-19 patients for this project. That process found no evidence whatsoever of a drop in mortality rates among COVID-19 patients taking vitamin D, vitamin C, or zinc supplements in comparison to other patients.
However, the data did suggest that vitamin D supplementation in particular has a loose association with lower rates of intubation and shorter hospital stays. Despite the findings, study authors caution more work is necessary to validate those benefits.
This research focused on COVID-19 patients who took these supplements while in the hospital for their infection. Researchers also surveyed a smaller group of people who had been taking a vitamin D supplement habitually prior to contracting COVID. Once again, the study did not find a significant change in mortality rate among these individuals.
“It’s important for people to understand that taking a lot of these supplements does not translate into better outcomes,” explains senior study author Dr. Ragheb Assaly, a UToledo professor of medicine. “The other important message is that the answer to this disease is the vaccine. Micronutrient supplements will not offset the lack of vaccination or make you not need the vaccine.”
‘They’re not going to prevent you from dying’
The research team want to make it clear that their work is in no way stating that vitamins are unhealthy or should be avoided. Such supplements, of course, offer certain immune benefits. This research is solely indicating that vitamins will not lower COVID-19 death risk.
“What we’re saying is this: If you don’t medically need these supplements, don’t take them thinking they’re protective against COVID-19,” Dr. Beran concludes. “They’re not going to prevent you from getting it and they’re not going to prevent you from dying.”
The study is published in Clinical Nutrition ESPEN.