Dietary Supplements: Do They Protect Against Coronavirus?
The use of dietary supplements has been on the rise since the onset of the pandemic. In the US, 29% of people now take more dietary supplements than before the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the proportion of Americans taking it to 76%.
According to a study conducted on behalf of the Samueli Foundation, 57% of respondents said they decided to take supplements to boost their overall immunity and 36% to protect against Covid-19. Other common reasons for increasing supplement use were to take control of their health (42%), improve their sleep (41%) and improve their mental health (34%).
„In our country, too, there is an increased demand for dietary supplements, such as vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, due to the strengthening of the immune system they offer. Specifically for their action against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, scientists around the world have conducted hundreds of studies, and a significant number claim to protect against disease or serious illness” notes the Specialist in Dietetics Mr. Dimitris Economakis, head of a team of nutritionists and gymnasts who love good nutrition and exercise.
„However, further research is needed to determine which is beneficial and in what quantities.“
As deficiencies in certain nutrients (including vitamin C, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids) in the body can increase the risk of infections, the interest in dietary supplements that boost immune function and could help prevent Covid-19 or treat the symptoms it causes remains high.
Many ingredients have not been adequately studied for this disease, but we already know that they can help prevent or reduce the symptoms of the common cold, flu and other respiratory infections. Therefore, some scientists believe that COVID-19 can also be promising.
In particular, vitamin C plays an important role in immunity, due to its antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiviral action and its effect on the regulators of the immune system. Its deficiency weakens the immune function and increases the susceptibility to infections. Research shows that vitamin C supplementation boosts the immune system, but its effects vary depending on the user’s vitamin C levels.
Taking vitamin C supplements regularly has been shown to reduce the duration of the common cold and the severity of its symptoms and the risk of catching a cold in people who are exposed to extreme physical stress. It also benefits people with pneumonia who have low levels of vitamin C, as well as people with viral infections, including shingles. The antioxidant activity of vitamin C could also help reduce oxidative stress during infections.
A retrospective review of 152 mechanically ventilated patients with Covid-19 (mean age 68 years) showed that those (79) who took vitamin C supplements had significantly lower mortality rates than those who did not. Case reports from China also show that high doses of intravenous vitamin C increased the oxygenation index in 50 patients with moderate to severe Covid-19. All patients eventually recovered.
According to the US National Institutes of Health, many researchers recommend vitamin C as an adjunct to Covid-19, including its potential ability to reduce inflammation and vascular damage in patients.
The effect of vitamin D in recent years has attracted the interest of researchers in various medical specialties, as it has been shown to have a positive effect on the body. In addition to its known benefits in calcium absorption and bone health, vitamin D plays a role in immunity. It appears to reduce virus replication rates, suppress inflammation, and increase T-regulatory cell levels and activity.
Its deficiency affects the body’s susceptibility to infections and has been linked to influenza, hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other viral diseases.
Some evidence suggests that vitamin D supplementation helps prevent respiratory infections, especially in people with 25 (OH) D levels below 25 nmol / L (10 ng / mL). Therefore, scientists are actively studying whether vitamin D could be useful in preventing or treating Covid-19.
Among many others, a study of 120 patients (mean age 62.3 years) admitted to a hospital in Algeria with severe Covid-19 found an inverse correlation between vitamin D levels and mortality rates. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 31 observational studies found that mean 25 (OH) D levels were significantly lower in patients with Covid-19 than in healthy subjects, based on the results of 5 studies examining this parameter.
Another review and meta-analysis of 39 studies worldwide (mainly in adults) examining the correlations between 25 (OH) D levels and rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the severity of Covid-19 disease found that Participants with vitamin D deficiency [levels varied according to the study] had a higher risk of infection and more severe symptoms than those with adequate vitamin D levels.
For omega-3 fatty acids, a study found that self-reported use more than three times a week for at least 3 months among 372,720 UK residents aged 16 to 90 years was associated with a 12% lower risk of SARS-CoV infection. 2. The findings were similar for 45,757 participants in the United States and for 27,373 participants in Sweden. Because of these findings and the potential anti-inflammatory and immunostimulatory effects of omega-3s, several researchers believe that these supplements could benefit patients with Covid-19.
However, there are other studies that have failed to demonstrate the benefits of these and other micronutrients for patients with this corona virus.
“Currently, there are several clinical trials examining whether taking them alone, in combination, or in combination with drugs can help prevent or treat Covid-19. For those who decide to take dietary supplements to strengthen their immune system, it is good to know that they are beneficial for the health of the individual, but their careless use carries risks. That is why they should inform their doctor and discuss with him about the dosage they need „, concludes Mr. Dimitris Economakis.