Vitamin C has been grabbing attention as a way to support immunity against COVID-19. The current body of evidence shows it may shorten the duration of symptoms. We’re all vulnerable and eager for answers. So, today we aim to answer: what’s the science say about Vitamin C and COVID-19? 

Vitamin C and Immunity

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It’s action in the body decreases inflammation and supports immune function.  These benefits are achieved with a normal intake of vitamin C as part of a balanced diet. Adults need about 75-90 mg of Vitamin C per day. Our body can’t make vitamin C, so it must come from our everyday foods. Produce such as sweet potatoes, bell peppers, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, and strawberries are rich in vitamin C. The daily requirements of vitamin C are not hard to meet. For example, you can meet the daily value by eating a single cup of cooked broccoli.

Vitamin C and Coronavirus Treatment 

As of now, we have limited evidence that Vitamin C can prevent or treat coronavirus. Most of the curiosity comes from research exploring the use of high doses of Vitamin C in critically ill COVID-19 patients. In one study, researchers found that high doses of Vitamin C reduced the duration of ICU COVID-19 p by 8%. Patients on ventilator treated with vitamin C reduced ventilator time by 18%. Doses of C are 16x higher than the recommended amount. It’s provided by an IV three to four times daily. Critically ill COVID-19 patients can suffer sepsis which causes a drop in Vitamin C. Vitamin C may improve conditions because it replaces low levels. Researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University showed patients with septic lung injury had a better chance of surviving when given Vitamin C infusions.

Should You Supplement Vitamin C? 

woman surrounded by lemon and orange slices
Although emerging evidence shows high doses of Vitamin C may improve outcomes of critically ill patients; taking high doses is not recommended for the general public. It’s easy to think more is better. Why not take more C if it can help with decreasing inflammation or improving immunity? The answer is we don’t have the evidence for prevention or home treatment. Plus, high doses of vitamin C have side effects such as diarrhea, nausea and heartburn.

Buyer Beware

Be wary of products that make false claims that they can prevent or cure COVID-19. The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are cracking down on companies making false claims and capitalizing on fear.
 
It may be tempting to buy these products to feel a sense of security and safety. The recommendation remains that we follow a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables. The body is masterful at protecting itself. Nourishing it and taking care of it are the best ways to boost immunity. 

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.