Have you noticed that Vitamin C is as hard to come by these days as toilet paper? Vitamin C has long been touted as a cure for the common cold. Now it is being promoted by some as a cure or preventative measure for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The scarcity of Vitamin C in stores and online indicates that many people do believe that it is a valuable supplement to be taking right now, but can Vitamin C really help?
No. Multiple sources have stated that Vitamin C is neither a cure nor will it prevent an individual from contracting the coronavirus that has resulted in the current global pandemic.
Part of the confusion may lie in the use of the name coronavirus. This is a broad term that describes a category of viruses that include the common cold as well as the more severe form that is causing the global pandemic and is referred to as COVID-19.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that does play an important role in our immune system. That is true. Some research has shown that Vitamin C may be somewhat beneficial in preventing and shortening the duration of the common cold. However, it is a leap to say it will prevent or cure this disease that has upended our lives.
“This is an age-old question that has been going around since viruses have been with us,” says Dr. Darrin D’Agostino, executive dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and vice president for health affairs at Kansas City University. “Nutrition taken as a whole, influences our immune system but with individual nutrients, it’s very difficult to say that any one will do anything to support the immune system or protect against COVID-19.”
D’Agostino adds that if those nutrients are part of a healthy diet and exercise routine, a person’s immune system stays active and does very well. “Individual nutrients have not been shown to have the benefit or protective effects, particularly in viral infections,” he says. “Again, if they are part of a healthy diet that includes exercise and we are able to decrease our stress, that puts our immune systems in the best situation to fight COVID or any other virus that comes along.”
Anti-vaccine Groups & Misinformation
One contributing reason that the Vitamin C myth has been able to gain traction is that anti-vaccine groups are popularizing it via social media. They have taken the fact that high doses of Vitamin C have been administered to critically ill COVID-19 patients and have put their own spin on it.
The rationale for administering high doses is to replace depleted levels due to the illness. It also should be noted that when hospitalized patients are treated with Vitamin C, it is administered intravenously. Large doses of Vitamin C taken by mouth can have detrimental effects, such as GI upset, including diarrhea.
The emphasis that is being put on the development of a vaccine is probably a factor in the anti-vaccine groups pushing the Vitamin C as a cure myth. They may see this as a pre-emptive strike against another vaccine being pushed on them. They have a history of promoting information that has been proven to be false, an example being that vaccines cause autism.
The fact remains that taking oral supplements of Vitamin C as a treatment or way to prevent COVID-19 is not supported by scientific research. Right now, the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19 is social distancing, proper handwashing, and avoiding touching your face.