August 2020

Updated Recommendations: Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies & COVID-19

Some experts are now suggesting that selenium deficiency may increase the risk for serious complications with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). What should you tell patients?

The current level of evidence isn’t strong. Two population-based studies linked low selenium status to severe COVID-19 outcomes, including increased risk of death. But both of these studies were small and low-quality. While some news headlines might be pushing consumers to load up on selenium supplements, remind them that deficiency is rare in the US. Most people consume enough in their daily diet. Fish, poultry and wheat are generally good sources of selenium. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of selenium for non-pregnant adults is 55 mcg, and eating just 3 ounces of salmon provides about 40 mcg of selenium. Also, explain that taking selenium in doses above 400 mcg daily can increase the risk of toxicity.

In addition to selenium, vitamin deficiencies in general have been hot topics since the beginning of the pandemic. Despite limited evidence, vitamin D continues to generate interest. Some experts were previously recommending vitamin D 2000 IU (50 mcg) daily for patients interested in taking a supplement. A joint task force of several medical societies recently released an official recommendation of 400-1000 IU (10-25 mcg) daily for those unable to spend 15-30 minutes in direct sunlight each day. The task force also reinforced that there’s no strong evidence suggesting that vitamin D supplementation can treat or prevent COVID-19 infection. If patients are still interested in taking vitamin D supplements, revise your recommendation from 2000 IU daily to 400-1000 IU daily of a USP verified product. And remind patients that most people can probably get enough vitamin D by spending a short amount of time in the sun each day.

Tell patients that there continues to be no strong evidence that taking any dietary supplements can help treat or prevent COVID-19. It’s important to continue to follow healthy lifestyle choices, including a well-balanced diet, and proven prevention methods. For more information about natural medicines and COVID-19, see our latest articles and resources.

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