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February 16, 2021

Vitamin C and Zinc supplements don't mitigate COVID-19 symptoms, study says

Illness COVID-19
Vitamin C COVID-19 Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa USA

Consumers rushed to buy vitamin C and zinc supplements at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but they don't shorten the duration of COVID-19 symptoms, a new study shows.

Vitamin C and Zinc supplements were among the most highly-sought products during the panic buying that occurred at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Consumers have long used the popular supplements to shorten the duration of symptoms caused by the common cold and the flu. But new research shows they are ineffective at reducing coronavirus symptoms. 

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic examined the effects of the supplements on 214 people who were recovering from COVID-19 recovering at home between April and October last year. 

The patients randomly were assigned to four groups. One group was given zinc supplements. Another received vitamin C supplements. A third received both supplements while a fourth served as a control group. 

The results, published Friday in the Journal of the American Medicine Association, were so futile that researchers stopped the trial early. Even at high doses, the supplements didn't help reduce the duration of COVID-19 symptoms, researchers found. 

"As we watched the pandemic spread across the globe, infecting and killing millions, the medical community and consumers alike scrambled to try supplements that they believed could possibly prevent infection, or ease COVID-19 symptoms, but the research is just now catching up," said Dr. Milind Desai, the a cardiologist and the study's co-principal investigator. 

"While vitamin C and zinc proved ineffective as a treatment when clinically compared to standard care, the study of other therapeutics continues."

Many Americans rushed to buy cold and flu remedies when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States. Vitamin C sales rose by 146% during the first week of March, according to the New York Times. Zinc sales jumped by 255%. 

The study's results show another way that COVID-19 diverges from the common cold and the flu. Some previous research has found zinc and vitamin C help reduce the duration of those illnesses. 

Studies have shown zinc may reduce the duration of the common cold by 20% when taken in high doses. 

Vitamin C has been found to shorten colds by 8% in adults and 14% in kids, but the supplement must be taken before symptoms begin to be effective, CNN reported. 

Additional studies are underway to determine whether zinc and vitamins C and D can prevent COVID-19.


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