FIT-WebQoof: Can Taking Vitamin C and Zinc Prevent COVID-19?
Is there any truth in the claim that zinc and vitamin C can prevent the disease?
Can popping vitamin C and zinc daily help you boost your immunity to fight coronavirus? Many Whatsapp forwards are advocating home-based remedies and ‘magical’ ingredients that could somehow prevent or treat the disease.
We also received this query on mail. FIT has already debunked most of the claims mentioned in the message. You can read about them in our WebQoof section here.
But is there any truth in the power of zinc and vitamin C in preventing the disease, as mentioned in point 3? While they are both essential minerals and nutrients, there is no scientific evidence to prove their preventive or therapeutic effects for COVID-19.
Potential Immunity-Boosters Cannot Prevent Infection
So far, no single treatment has been approved that will protect us from COVID-19. Patients are being treated symptomatically and being provided supportive care, depending on the severity of the disease.
Coming to the nutrients being discussed, zinc and vitamin C are known to strengthen the immunity, but they are not a sure-shot cure for the novel coronavirus.
Speaking to FIT, nutritionist Kavita Devgan explained, “Vitamin C is essential for the proper functioning of the phagocytes and T cells, the index fighters of our body. It also supports protein diction of antibodies in the oft that are important for a healthy immune system. Similarly, zinc also strengthens the immunity and keeps inflammation in check.”
But does this mean these can ‘prevent’ infection? Kavita explains,
“No, they cannot prevent it. Taking essential nutrients can help give your body a fighting chance once infected, and the symptoms may be less severe if you are healthy.”Kavita Devgan, Nutritionist
This needs to be highlighted. Claims surrounding immunity-boosting techniques falter when they declare a certain ingredient or practice as a ‘prevention’ or ‘cure’, and not as a way of maintaining general health (which is actually what they do). Overall wellbeing and health is indeed important to fight an infection, as Kavita says, but this cannot prevent one from catching the infection in the first place - if the necessary precautions aren’t followed.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), while busting myths on the miraculous qualities of ‘hot peppers’ or ‘saline’, made a similar point,
“Hot peppers in your food, though very tasty, cannot prevent or cure COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself against the new coronavirus is to keep at least 1 metre away from others and to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. It is also beneficial for your general health to maintain a balanced diet, stay well hydrated, exercise regularly and sleep well.”The World Health Organisation
No Specific Evidence for Benefits Against COVID-19
Dr Sumit Ray, a critical care specialist in Delhi, explained that certain relatively smaller studies have shown vitamin C and zinc to have anti-inflammatory effects in general. Zinc is also given to diarrhoea patients. But nobody knows anything about its ‘antiviral’ benefits, specifically in the COVID setting.
“No large and well-planned human trials have been conducted to see to what extent their anti-inflammatory properties work. We don’t have clear-cut evidence. And if we speak particularly about COVID, there have been no strong studies to suggest that zinc or vitamin C can stop or reduce the viral load in people.”Dr Sumit Ray
“There are trials on vitamin C for common cold, but even in those, there is no clarity on the reason why it seemed to help.”
He adds that although zinc and vitamin C may not harm COVID-19 patients if given in prescribed doses, the evidence for them preventing or treating the infection is not strong enough. It is important to remember that solid proof is needed before verifying a medical claim.
The only way to protect ourselves from the infection is to follow the precautions we already know of: social distancing, maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene and wearing masks.
You can read FIT's WebQoof stories here to verify claims related to coronavirus.
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