Vitamin C is not a cure for Covid-19, but it's still a good nutritional supplement

This week, a former contestant on The Apprentice was pulled up by the Advertising Standards Agency for making claims that his product was a “cure for coronavirus”. What a thing to say! The product in question is called Revival Shots and they contain 500mg vitamin C. Not only is this totally irresponsible and misleading, it also highlights a big issue in how nutrition can be misinterpreted.

As a Nutritional Therapist with over 20 years experience, there are strict guidelines and regulations outlining how I can practice to keep my clients safe, and I am always careful not to make claims or give false hope about the effect of nutritional supplements.

Let’s be clear, right now: there is no cure for Covid-19. Yes, there is some research going on, but we are in the very early stages of this, and it will be some time before we know what, if anything, works.

We know that the only way that Covid-19 will be fully controlled is with an effective and safe vaccine. This is likely to take 12 to 18 months to develop.

Vitamin C for immune support

Over the last few weeks, most of us have been doing our best to help keep ourselves and others healthy. I know that for many people this includes taking some nutritional supplements, which might include vitamin C, zinc and vitamin D.

Vitamin C is infamous for supporting our immune system. I am sure most of us could find a bottle lurking in the back of a cupboard somewhere. As I have written before, some research shows that it may help to reduce the duration of colds and flus and it has been shown to have some anti-viral properties. But that does not mean it will stop us getting Covid-19.

Some hospitals across the world have been using vitamin C as part of the treatment plan for Covid-19 patients, delivered intravenously, at a high dose. Dr Andrew G Weber, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist in one New York hospital said that his intensive-care patients with the coronavirus immediately receive 1,500 mg of vitamin C, administered intravenously, three or four times a day.

Dr Weber said: “The patients who received vitamin C did significantly better than those who did not get vitamin C.”

The important thing here is that vitamin C is being used as part of a bigger treatment strategy. This is very different from taking a 500mg supplement and expecting a cure.

Early stages of research

To find out whether vitamin C is a plausible treatment for Covid-19, it takes a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Whether oral vitamin C is any good as a preventive measure is not yet known, but for now I will keep on taking my vitamins (and other) nutritional supplements.

I will also continue to eat a diet of healthy, nourishing food. Not as a cure for coronavirus, but rather to support my immune system and to help keep myself as healthy and as well-nourished as I can.

Nutritional supplements should be used as an adjunct to a healthy diet, never to replace what is missing.

This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 30 May 2020.