Have you ever heard that taking vitamin D supplements or following a ketogenic (keto) diet will protect you from the new coronavirus? In this article, we explain why these and other persistent myths are not based on science.
Myth 1: Vitamin D prevents infection
Some articles claim that if a person takes vitamin D supplements, they will be less likely to get SARS-CoV-2.
In particular, people based these claims on a controversial article that appeared in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research.
The authors claim to have found a correlation between low average vitamin D levels in populations in some countries and higher rates of COVID-19 cases and related deaths in those same countries.
Based on this correlation, the authors suggest that adding vitamin D to the diet may help protect against COVID-19. However, there is no evidence that this is actually the case.
In a review of the evidence published on May 1, 2020, researchers from the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford unequivocally conclude: “We found no clinical evidence of vitamin D in [preventing or treating] COVID-19.”
Other researchers who have reviewed existing data regarding a potential link between vitamin D and COVID-19 agree.
One report by experts from various institutions in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium and the United States also indicates that there is no supporting evidence in favor of taking vitamin D supplements to prevent SARS — CoV — 2 infection.
They also note that while adequate amounts of vitamin D can contribute to overall good health on a daily basis, taking supplements without first seeing a doctor can be harmful.
For example, taking too much vitamin D as a dietary supplement can actually put health at risk, especially among people with certain chronic diseases.
MYTH 2: Zinc stops the virus in its tracks
Another widespread rumor is that taking zinc supplements can help prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection or treat COVID-19.
It is true that zinc is an important mineral that helps maintain the functioning of the human immune system.
Based on this idea, a group of researchers from Russia, Germany and Greece hypothesized that zinc may be able to act as a preventive and adjuvant therapeutic agent for COVID-19.
The researchers cite in vitro experiments that appear to have shown that zinc ions are able to inhibit the action of a certain enzyme that facilitates the viral activity of SARS-CoV-2.
However, they also point to the lack of actual clinical evidence that zinc can have an effect against SARS-CoV-2 SARS pneumonia in humans.
Other works that cite zinc’s potential as an adjuvant in COVID-19 therapy, including one that appears in medical hypotheses, are more speculative and are not based on any clinical data..
They found that, according to available human studies, zinc supplementation can help prevent pneumonia in young children, and that zinc deficiency can impair immune responses in older adults.
MYTH 3: Vitamin C can fight COVID-19
Vitamin C is another important nutrient that gets a lot of attention. Many people believe that it can prevent or even cure the flu or common cold.
While it is true that adequate amounts of vitamin C can help support immune function, current evidence on its effectiveness in treating or preventing colds and flu is limited and often contradictory.
Despite this, there are claims that this vitamin can help fight infections caused by the new coronavirus.
It is possible that people are basing these claims on an existing ongoing clinical study in China that looks at the effects of high doses of intravenous vitamin C on hospitalized patients receiving care for a severe form of COVID-19.
The researchers expect to complete the study by the end of September 2020. So far, there are no results.
Commenting on the results of the study, experts from the Linus Pauling Institute, which specializes in health and nutrition, explain that while a high dose of vitamin C can help alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19 in critically ill patients, regular vitamin C supplements are very unlikely to help people fight SARS-CoV-2.
Experts warn that ” intravenous administration of vitamin C is not the same as taking vitamin C supplements,” as they will never raise the level of this vitamin in the blood as high as an intravenous infusion would do.
They also warn people who may be tempted to increase their dose of vitamin C that they may end up taking too much and experiencing adverse side effects.
Myth 4: The Keto Diet can Cure COVID-19
Keto diets high in fat and low in carbohydrates have also received some attention in the context of treatment or prevention of COVID-19.
This may be because there is some evidence that keto diets can help strengthen the immune system. However, much of this evidence is based on animal studies rather than human trials.
In addition, an upcoming clinical study from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, suggests looking at whether ketogenic intervention can help intubated COVID-19 patients reduce inflammation.
This intervention would require the introduction of a specially developed ketogenic formula through enteral nutrition. This would be a last resort for those in critical condition.
Currently, there is no evidence that following a keto diet can help a healthy person prevent or cure an infection with SARS-CoV-2.
However, there is evidence that keto diets can expose people to certain health risks — for example, by raising cholesterol levels. Keto diets can also have side effects, such as flu-like symptoms, headaches, nausea, and changes in blood pressure.