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Do Dietary Supplements Help Prevent COVID-19 Infection?

Researchers found a modest but significant benefit for women taking probiotics, omega 3 fatty acids, multivitamins or vitamin D.
Do Dietary Supplements Help Prevent COVID-19 Infection?
Healthy fish oil nutritional supplements pills / close-up macro

Could dietary supplements affect susceptibility to COVID infection? That was the question investigators attempted to answer in an article published this week in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health. The short answer is yes, but it isn’t quite so simple.

Which Supplements Might Help Prevent COVID-19 Infection?

Over 400,000 subscribers to the COVID-19 Symptom Study App participated in this observational research (BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, April 19, 2021). The mobile phone app collected lifestyle information, such as use of supplements, as well as COVID tests and their results. The participants were from the US, the UK and Sweden. Nearly half were taking supplements such as multivitamins, vitamin D, vitamin C, fish oil, probiotics or zinc.

The Results:

The authors report that overall, women experienced a “modest but significant” reduction in the risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 if they took supplements. The reductions were relative risks of 14% for probiotics, 12% for omega-3 fatty acids, 13% for multivitamins and 9% for vitamin D. Vitamin C, zinc and garlic conferred no advantages. In addition, the researchers reported that men derived no clear benefits from taking supplements.

Although most of the app users were in the UK, the scientists did note a few minor differences between countries: Swedish women did not appear to benefit from omega 3 supplements, although Swedish men were slightly less likely to test positive if they took probiotics, multivitamins, omega-3 pills or vitamin D. In addition, men in the US who took probiotics or vitamin D had a lower chance of a positive test.

The People’s Pharmacy Perspective:

We have written previously about data indicating people who have low vitamin D levels may be more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Throughout the pandemic, there have been hints and speculation that certain supplements might be able to help prevent COVID-19 infection. There are still no “gold standard” studies. 

That’s why the researchers conclude: 

“Randomised controlled trials are required to confirm these observational findings before any therapeutic recommendations can be made.

Learn More:

You may be interested in our interview with integrative medicine expert Tieraona Low Dog, MD, on this topic. It is Show 1217: Natural Ways to Keep Your Immune System Strong. Dr. Low Dog offers further information about supplements that may be helpful in a recent interview. It is Show 1255: Natural Ways to Keep Your Immune Response Optimal. 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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