Can vitamin C’s immune-boosting effects help fight COVID-19? By Divina Ramirez for Prevention
While scientists continue to find potential cures for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), numerous alternative solutions for the disease have started cropping up. More and more people are starting to take matters into their own hands in a bid to protect themselves from the disease, from taking vitamin supplements to disinfecting their homes with ultraviolet lamps.
Vitamin C: A natural antiviral
Vitamin C, also called L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that supports a number of important cellular processes including cell growth, tissue repair, protein metabolism and blood circulation.
It is also hailed for its well-documented beneficial effects on immune functions. A recent review published in Nutrients established that vitamin C fortifies cells and tissues against pathogens and stimulates the production of disease-fighting antibodies and white blood cells. For these reasons, vitamin C contributes a great deal to the body’s natural immune defenses.
Another recent review in Nutrients provided evidence that the oral administration of vitamin C to patients placed in intensive care units (ICU) reduced the duration of their prescribed time there.
Vitamin C as a potential treatment for COVID-19
A recent report from Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider, shed more light on the immune-boosting and healing potentials of vitamin C.
Under the guidance of Andrew Weber, a critical-care specialist affiliated with two Northwell Health facilities, medical teams gave ill COVID-19 patients 1,500 mg of vitamin C via intravenous injection three to four times a day.
Weber reported that patients who received vitamin C showed more signs of improvement than those who did not get the vitamin.
The team noted that vitamin C levels dropped in COVID-19 patients who experienced sepsis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the immune system overreacts to an infection. Sepsis often triggers changes that can damage multiple organs and impair vital cellular processes.
The dramatic decrease in the patients’ vitamin C levels is what led Weber and his team to administer the vitamin in the first place. That said, Weber added that their treatment mimicked experimental treatments for COVID-19 patients in Shanghai, China, where sales of vitamin C supplements are on the rise.
Although vitamin C appeared to help a tremendous amount in alleviating severe complications due to COVID-19, it should also be noted that the dosage that Weber and his team used is over 16 times the recommended allowance of vitamin C as per the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines.
For comparison’s sake, the recommended allowance of vitamin C is 90 mg for adult men and 75 mg for adult women.
Under normal circumstances, taking high doses of vitamin C can cause adverse side effects including nausea, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal cramps. In severe cases, too much vitamin C can lead to nutrient imbalances, bone spurs and liver damage.
Consult with a healthcare professional before taking vitamin C supplements for a serious infection or disease.
Food sources of vitamin C
Unlike most animals, humans can’t create their own vitamin C. For this reason, we depend on vitamin C-rich foods to maintain adequate levels of this nutrient.
Citrus fruits are perhaps one of the most popular vitamin C-rich foods, and for good reason. A medium-sized orange contains 70 mg of the vitamin, which accounts for 78 percent of the average person’s recommended intake. (Related: Compounds in citrus fruits and orange juice found to improve gut health.)
Incorporate these into a balanced diet rich in other essential nutrients to maximize their benefits. Your healthcare provider might also prescribe supplements if you have severe nutritional deficiencies.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient known to provide a number of health benefits. As recent studies and reports show, vitamin C might be a viable treatment for severe complications associated with COVID-19 due to its immune-boosting effects.