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June 2020

Vitamin Deficiencies and Recommendations for COVID-19

Vitamin deficiencies are getting increased attention as possible risk factors for serious complications with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). What should you tell patients?

When it comes to vitamin D, data isn’t conclusive. Research out of Dublin suggests that populations in the northern hemisphere, where there isn’t enough winter and spring sunlight to maintain adequate vitamin D levels, are faring much worse in the COVID-19 pandemic. Other research out of Asia suggests that vitamin D DEFICIENCY, but not necessarily insufficiency, is most concerning. But not all research agrees. New research out of the UK found no link between vitamin D status and COVID-19.  Despite the conflicting data, some experts are recommending that people take vitamin D supplements. While there’s no strong evidence to support this recommendation, supplementing below the tolerable upper intake level is likely safe. If patients want to start taking vitamin D supplements, suggest 2000 IU (50 mcg) daily of a USP verified product. But remind patients that most people can probably get enough vitamin D by spending a short amount of time in the sun each day.

Regarding vitamin C, there are concerns that some populations aren’t consuming enough in their diet, which might reduce immune function. If patients want to try vitamin C supplements, some experts are suggesting 200 mg of vitamin C daily for COVID-19 prevention and 1-2 grams daily for treatment. These doses are likely safe, but make sure patients understand that there’s no strong evidence that they can treat or prevent COVID-19. Patients can also focus on adding more vitamin C to their diet – for instance, eating one cup of strawberries and one orange daily should be enough to obtain 200 mg.

In addition to vitamins D and C, there’s some early speculation that low vitamin K status might also be linked to poor COVID-19 outcomes. But it’s too early to draw any conclusions. For now, if patients want to increase intake, tell them they can do so by eating more leafy greens. Patients can also look for a USP verified multivitamin containing vitamin K.

In general, it’s important to reinforce that there’s no strong evidence that taking any dietary supplements can help treat or prevent COVID-19. There are some clinical trials in the works, so we should have a better understanding in the future. For now, make sure patients understand that 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.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2020 Natural Medicines Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. Natural Medicines is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.