Can vitamins help protect against COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a flurry of research aimed at understanding what, if any, protective benefit vitamins and supplements may provide, according to news reports.

In a December 1, 2020 Elemental article, Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained that deficiencies in certain essential nutrients such as vitamin C or zinc could hamper the immune system and that addressing these deficiencies by taking a multivitamin or supplement can be beneficial. Willett cautioned, however, that consuming more of these nutrients than the body needs will not provide additional protection and in fact could be harmful.

Willett used the analogy of a car missing a wheel, noting that replacing the fourth wheel will allow the car to function properly but adding a fifth wheel wouldn’t allow the car to perform any better and might even be dangerous.

The article examined the ongoing COVID-related research on a range of nutrients and vitamins, including zinc, melatonin, vitamin C, and vitamin D. Willett and other experts discussed why each nutrient is important and their impressions of the available research about that nutrient’s impact on COVID-19. Willett noted that vitamin D is the “most promising” supplement under study for COVID protection.

Read the Elemental article: What Science Says About Vitamins and Supplements for Covid-19