By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Doctors say taking vitamins to prevent or treat COVID-19 is ineffective, HuffPost reported. While having a healthy immune system is important, supplements are unable to prevent or treat the coronavirus or the disease it causes, COVID-19. Myths about vitamins run rampant.
Misinformation surrounding the coronavirus has spread more quickly than the disease itself. From conspiracy theories to more innocently intended “home remedies,” inaccurate data about the virus seems to be everywhere. The Huffington Post caught onto and helped debunk a recent claim that taking vitamin supplements can prevent or treat the novel coronavirus or the disease it causes, COVID-19.
The article listed findings from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, all agreeing that vitamins or a lack thereof showed no significant change in contracting or recovering from the coronavirus. “It’s OK to take a multivitamin (but it should come at the recommendation of your doctor),” the article said. “Just don’t take ‘extra’ or more than a regular dose. It certainly won’t make you any more immune to the coronavirus.”
This is just one of many myths about vitamins circulating today.
Fresh-Picked vs. Frozen; Organic vs. Traditional
What exactly defines a vitamin?
“Vitamins are those nutritional substances that are essential to health in tiny amounts, but which an organism cannot manufacture in sufficient quantities for themselves,” said Dr. Steven Novella, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. “Therefore, you have to get vitamins from food, by definition.”
Dr. Novella said that vitamins are also defined by what they do, and so they are often groups of compounds. Unfortunately, with the complexity of vitamins comes some difficulty understanding them, which in turn leads to myths about them.
One myth about nutritional values of vitamins involves fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables. According to Dr. Novella, frozen vegetables are better than canned and—if picked at just the right time of ripeness or freshness—can even be better than fresh-picked vegetables that ripen in transit or in stores. This leads to one of the hottest debates in the nutritional world: foods that tout being “organically grown.”
“Reviews of published evidence show that there are only negligible differences in the nutritional quality between organic and non-organically grown food,” Dr. Novella said. It seems vitamins and minerals remain in our food no matter how it’s grown.
Are Daily Supplements Important for Everybody?
Many people argue that routinely taking multivitamin supplements is tremendously beneficial for your health and that everyone should take them. However, just like their alleged use in the fight against COVID-19, these reports seem to be overblown.
“In fact, there is no evidence for any health benefit of routine supplementation,” Dr. Novella said. “We have done observational studies; the biggest is a Swedish study that looked at hundreds of thousands of people that had enrolled in various different clinical trials. They found no correlation between those who routinely supplemented with vitamins and health outcomes.”
Dr. Novella stressed that if we look at all the evidence we have, whether experimental or observational, there isn’t any evidence that routine supplementation of vitamins and minerals is important for health. Generally speaking, most people get all the vitamins and minerals they need from a well-rounded diet.
While there’s nothing wrong with taking vitamin supplements, it seems that their effects have been exaggerated. In any case, they don’t prevent contracting the coronavirus and they can’t treat COVID-19.
Dr. Steven Novella contributed to this article. Dr. Novella is Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. He earned his M.D. from Georgetown University and completed his residency training in neurology at Yale University. Dr. Novella is active in both clinical research and in medical education at every level, including patients, the public, medical students, and health professionals.