Several recent studies have looked at the impact of vitamin D and zinc on COVID-19.
One study of 489 people found that those who had a vitamin D deficiency were more likely to test positive for the virus.
Another study found that of 50 people with COVID-19 in the hospital, only one needed ICU treatment after being given high doses of vitamin D.
By this point, we’ve all seen patients in the hospital receive these supplements.
The most notable, President Trump, received a mixture of vitamin D and zinc along with a number of other experimental drugs.
Does it work?
According to the National Institutes of Health, because of the suspected benefits, availability and cheap cost, they’d like to find something this simple can cure or prevent coronavirus, but the truth is, it’s not proven yet.
Registered dietitian Erin Gussler explains the possible benefits, “They can help the immune system identify pathogens in the body, so helping the immune system recognize the virus in the body and they also are part of the immune system and the mechanism that blocks the viruses from being able to get into the cells.”
How much vitamin D do I need?
Unfortunately, between working inside and wearing sunscreen, Americans generally don’t soak up enough sun to produce vitamin D.
“You can find it naturally in liver, egg yolks, butter, oily fish,” Gussler said.
Ask your doctor for a blood test to determine how much vitamin D you may need with an over-the-counter pill. Gussler said needs can vary from 1,00 IUs to 50,000 IUs.
Should I take zinc?
“Research is really supporting that zinc supplementation does reduce the severity, the frequency and the duration of the common cold,” Gussler said. “Obviously the research isn’t quite out there on COVID but we can extrapolate that it does have a lot of immune benefits.”
If you’re sick, you may notice a boost of zinc can help you feel better. Both zinc and vitamin D are the main ingredients in many over-the-counter cold medicines.
If you’re not sick, Gussler recommends only taking zinc through a multi-vitamin, typically not large amounts by itself.
“Zinc and copper compete for the same receptor site in the body," Gussler said. “So, if you do a lot of zinc and not supplementing copper and making sure you’re getting enough copper, you can actually create a copper deficiency which can cause anemia for some people.”
There are some zinc tablets that also contain copper, which you can ask your doctor if that’s a good option for you.
The foods which contain Zinc also contain copper, which naturally helps to balance each other: Meat, shellfish, chickpeas, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds.
Isn’t vitamin D deficiency common in the US?
It sure is!
Vitamin D deficiency is particularly common among Hispanic and black people, two groups who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Vitamin D deficiency is also more common in people who are older, and those who are obese or have high blood pressure. Again, these factors also increase the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.