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Vitamin C supplements: fad or fact?

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You might have read the claims that dosing up on vitamin C will protect us against coronavirus (COVID-19) – but before you start popping the high-strength supplements, let’s just get something clear:

There is currently NO evidence that vitamin C will help to prevent or fight off the new coronavirus.

Where do the claims come from?

There’s some limited evidence that taking vitamin C may help to REDUCE the severity and duration of the common cold in (by approx. 0.5 to 1 day) – but for the general population, vitamin C supplements didn’t PREVENT colds.

Given the viruses behind the common cold & COVID-19 are VERY different (think a frog vs a snake, both animals but clearly very different) it’s highly misleading, not to mention dangerous, to suggest vitamin C can fight coronavirus.

That’s not to say it isn’t important – it absolutely is for many body functions, including repair, absorbing iron and supporting our immune system. But we can get all the vitamin C our body needs from a wide range of vege and fruit such as tomatoes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, peppers, oranges, kiwis, papayas and strawberries.

Is there any harm in taking vitamin C?

They’re unlikely to cause any damage, but high-dose vitamin C supplements (>1,000 mg) can actually trigger gut upset, like stomach pain, diarrhoea and extra gas. Also, there’s only so much your body can absorb and it can’t be stored, so you’ll likely just end up with vitamin C-filled orange wee.

A clinical trial is currently being done in China to see if very high-dose intravenous vitamin C (up to 24,000mg a day) for 7 days will have any benefit for treating those with severe Covid19 infected pneumonia. To put it in perspective, that’s 600 times our daily requirement (40mg) and this could only ever be done under very close medical supervision. Stay tuned for the results to come in September.

KEY TAKE-HOME:

Don’t panic, keep washing your hands and focus on staying healthy with exercise, sleep and eating a wide variety of plant-based foods – as you’ll all know by now, diversity is key!