The Truth About Vitamin D, Zinc, and Other Coronavirus Rumors

What might work, what probably doesn’t, and what’s flat-out wrong

Dana G Smith
Elemental
Published in
6 min readMar 26, 2020

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Photo: Science Photo Library/Getty Images

TThere’s a lot of misinformation and half-truths going around right now about the novel coronavirus. That’s understandable — the virus is very new and doctors and scientists are still learning about how the infection works and best ways to treat it. The news being reported about tests, symptoms, and treatments is conflicting at times, which is confusing. Plus, everyone wants to protect themselves as best they can, so it makes sense that people will try anything to stave off the virus, proven or not.

Here, Elemental breaks down fact from fiction.

Will zinc supplements protect against the coronavirus?

There is no research yet on whether zinc will impact the novel coronavirus, officially named SARS-CoV-2. However, zinc may interfere with the other six coronaviruses, including the original SARS and the four coronaviruses that cause the common cold.

Whether zinc can prevent infections hasn’t been studied as much as its therapeutic properties. A study from 2010 in cells in a dish — which, it’s important to point out, are not full people — found that zinc blocked replication of the first SARS coronavirus. In humans, however, the data is conflicting. One meta-analysis of seven different studies found that zinc supplements shortened the duration of a cold, which may have been caused by either a coronavirus or a rhinovirus, by 33%. A more recent double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published by the same scientist did not see any difference in cold symptom duration between people who took zinc and those who took a placebo.

Just because you can hold your breath for 10 seconds does not mean you haven’t been infected with the coronavirus.

“If there is an effect of zinc just on common colds, it’s pretty modest, and there’s no information at all about zinc and this particular coronavirus,” says infectious disease expert William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “I’m going to repeat this again: Even if…

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Dana G Smith
Elemental

Health and science writer • PhD in 🧠 • Words in Scientific American, STAT, The Atlantic, The Guardian • Award-winning Covid-19 coverage for Elemental