Practice Policy Update Regarding COVID-19

We all know the drill: Wash your hands, wear a mask and stay six feet apart. 

But there’s something else scientists say you should do to protect yourself against COVID-19: Take your vitamins.

As the state moves towards gradually opening up, the risk of becoming infected with the novel coronavirus could increase. That’s one good reason to bolster your immune system, which is vital in fighting respiratory infections like COVID-19, according to the authors of a paper published last week in the journal Nutrients.

“While it’s important to wash your hands, avoid sick people and cover your cough, it’s also important to make sure you’re eating well,” said Dr. Adrian Gombart, co-author of the report and professor in biochemistry and biophysics at Oregon State University. “If you’re not getting an adequate intake of certain micronutrients, then perhaps you should take a supplement.”

Respiratory tract infections killed nearly 2.5 million people worldwide in 2016, according to the World Health Organization. Influenza, alone, was responsible for up to 650,000 fatalities. And that’s not counting the impact of COVID-19, which has killed about 225,000 people since December, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracking map.

A vaccine against COVID-19 is months away at best, and there are no cures. That means it’s largely up to your immune system to fight off the infection. You can help it by getting enough sleep and consuming the right nutrients. 

Gombart and his coauthors — from the University of Southampton in Britain, the University of Otago in New Zealand and the University Medical Center in the Netherlands — said called on public health officials to put out a reminder. 

“There’s a wealth of data that shows the role that good nutrition plays in supporting the immune system,” Gombart said. “As a society, we need to be doing a better job of getting that message across along with the other important, more common messages.”

The paper says vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D and E are needed for healthy immune function along with folate and trace elements, like zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium and copper. Omega-3 fatty acids are also important. Ideally, everyone would get enough of these nutrients in their diet. But that’s often not the case, the paper said.

“It is generally accepted that nutrient inadequacies and deficiencies are widespread,” the paper said.

The authors recommended that consumers take a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Not all vitamins are the same, however. To ensure that you’re getting what you pay for, Gombart said consumers should buy supplements that have the USP seal. That means the product has been tested by the respected third party auditor, United States Pharmacopeia.

“I’m not pitching Costco, but everything they sell is USP certified,” Gombart said. “If you buy the brand name multivitamins, they’re probably fine. But you do have to be careful when you’re buying things off the internet.”

The National Institutes of Health recommends choosing a multivitamin tailored to your age, gender and other characteristics, for example pregnancy.

“(Multivitamins) for men often contain little or no iron, for example, whereas those for seniors typically provide more calcium and vitamins D and B12 than (multivitamins) for younger adults,” the agency says on its multivitamin webpage.

In addition, the authors also suggest that people take vitamin C and D supplements.

Multiple studies have documented the effectiveness of both vitamins, showing they’re effective in helping the immune system. Studies have shown that vitamin C, for example, can curtail the number of colds suffered by active people and that in high enough doses can limit the length of a cold. Other studies have shown it’s effective in preventing pneumonia.

Researchers have also extensively studied the impact of vitamin D on infections. One analysis published in the British Medical Journal of controlled trials involving more than 11,300 people showed that vitamin D was effective in protecting participants against acute respiratory tract infections.

Federal authorities have set recommended daily allowances for both vitamins but the authors recommend taking more. The RDA for vitamin C is 75 milligrams a day for women and 90 mg. a day for men. But the authors suggest 200 mg. a day. 

“It should be noted that vitamin C requirements depend on health status, and 1 to 2 grams day are recommended to restore normal blood levels in individuals who are sick, beginning at the onset of symptoms,” the paper said.

The late Linus Pauling, who co-founded the institute now at OSU to study the role of nutrients in health, took up to 20,000 milligrams a day when he was sick, said Dr. Alexander Michels, vitamin C expert at the Linus Pauling Institute and one of Gombart’s colleagues.

“But even though he often promoted high doses of vitamin C, he said that ‘the first 250 milligram is more important than any later 250 milligram,’” Michels said in an email.

Gombart, the institute’s vitamin D expert, suggested that people should take 2,000 international units of vitamin D to ward off infection. That’s way above the 400 to 600 iu recommended by federal authorities.

Vitamin C is not toxic, Gombart said. If you get more than you need, your body simply eliminates the excess in urine. Vitamin D can be toxic but only if taken in much higher doses.

“The doses we’re recommending here are very safe,” Gombart said.

Content Shared from the Lund Report – You can reach Lynne Terry at lynne@thelundreport.org or on Twitter @LynnePDX.

Apr 29 2020

News source: The Lund Report

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