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The Covid protectors

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Even low-dose vitamins and multivitamins protect against a Covid-19 infection, as a major new study has discovered.

Taking a multivitamin or a low-dose vitamin supplement is not the best way to top up your nutritional levels—but even these modest pills can protect you from Covid-19, a major new study has discovered.

Sales of vitamins have skyrocketed since the Covid pandemic took hold; even by early March last year, the supplement market in the UK rose by nearly 20 percent, with vitamin C leading the way with a 110 percent increase in sales, and zinc with a 415 percent rise.

And no wonder, with studies demonstrating that vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc support immune function and reduce respiratory infections.

But do they protect us from Covid-19 infection? Researchers from King’s College analyzed data from the Covid-19 Symptom Study app, which they launched in March 2020 to track the effects of Covid. The app’s 445,000 subscribers in the UK, the US and Sweden had all had a PCR or blood test for Covid, and 23,521 had tested positive.1

Around 47 percent of the app’s users reported taking a multivitamin or individual vitamins at least three times a week over the prior three months—and the researchers concluded that taking vitamin D, probiotics or multivitamins reduced the risk of Covid infection by up to 14 percent. But vitamin C, garlic and zinc didn’t seem to help prevent infection.

There are always other factors that play a part in studies such as this—diet, age, exercise, weight, smoking and general health, for instance, can also influence the results. But the researchers say that even when they accounted for all these factors, vitamins still had a strong, independent protective effect.

Women seemed to get more benefit from taking vitamins, which could be because they have stronger immune systems that respond better to supplements, the researchers speculate, although it could also be simply because far more women had registered with the app.

And these results were from taking vitamins at low levels—the minimal amount as defined by the recommended daily allowance (RDA)—and so who knows what the protective effect would have been if the users had taken therapeutic levels?

What vitamins are they taking?

The vitamins that people have been taking since the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK, the US and Sweden, as tracked by the Covid-19 Symptom Study app.


What’s the best?

The most effective vitamins in lowering the risk of a Covid-19 infection, according to the Covid-19 Symptom Study app:

Probiotics 14%

Omega-3 fatty acids 12%

Multivitamins 13%

Vitamin D 9%

Why do they work?

Vitamin D. It plays a key role in the healthy functioning of our immune system, and especially on antigen-presenting T and B cells. One major study discovered it reduces the risk of respiratory infection by around 11 percent. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with more than 100 diseases.

Multivitamins. These contain vitamins, minerals and trace elements that support the immune system. Deficiencies in zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, D and E can make viral infections more severe, and one meta-analysis discovered that multivitamins reduce the chances of respiratory infection.

Omega-3 fatty acids. They are anti-inflammatory, and they can also help support the immune system, especially the antigen-presenting T and B cells.

Probiotics. These help the gut microbiome and generate antiviral metabolites. This can improve immune response, and there’s evidence that a healthy gut also makes lung function better.




BMJ Nutr Prev Health, 2021; bmjnph-2021-000250


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