What Science Says About Vitamins and Supplements for Covid-19

Do vitamin D, melatonin, zinc, and vitamin C protect against Covid-19?

Robert Roy Britt
Elemental
Published in
9 min readNov 30, 2020

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Photo: Nicolas Solerieu/Unsplash

Dozens of studies are underway to determine whether supplements of common nutrients and vitamins could help ward off infections of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, or even treat the disease by reducing the dangerous inflammation it causes in the lungs and other organs. A few have proven promising. But the research is not yet conclusive on any supplements, and it’s quite inconclusive for others. Meanwhile, scientists caution that too much of any nutrient can have negative side effects.

The greatest benefit of supplements is likely for people who suffer specific nutrient deficiencies.

“Deficiency in one of many essential nutrients can reduce the body’s immune defenses, and fixing these deficiencies with supplements will then be beneficial,” says Walter Willett, MD, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It doesn’t mean that continuing to increase intake [beyond the body’s needs] will have further benefit.”

Think of a car missing a wheel. Replacing the fourth wheel will make the car work much better, Willett notes, but adding a fifth wheel won’t offer any additional benefit and can actually hamper performance. If you eat well and get enough vitamin D — more on that below — you likely have all the nutrients necessary to build a healthy immune system, and adding extra nutrients doesn’t make you extra healthy.

But the vast majority of Americans don’t meet basic dietary guidelines. “I think it is reasonable for most people to take a multivitamin/multimineral supplement as a nutritional safety net,” Willett tells Elemental, adding that doing so was important for many people before Covid, “and it is more important now.” That holds true for both prevention and if you catch the disease. However, if you have Covid-19, you should discuss any supplements or other treatments with a…

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Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB