Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Do Not Prevent or Treat COVID-19 and Excessive Use Can Have Serious Side Effects, Says HMC Official
Doha, 7 July 2020: An official from Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is reminding members of the public about the importance of only following health advice shared by trusted organizations. The warning follows reports that some residents are rushing to local pharmacies and stores to purchase Vitamin C and D, zinc, and other supplements that are being promoted on social media sites as an effective way to prevent and treat COVID-19 infection.
Dr. Hassan Mohamed Hassan Saqr, Consultant, Family Medicine at HMC, says when taken in excess, many vitamins can cause adverse effects, some of which can be dangerous and have serious health risks. He says it is important for people to get advice from their doctor before taking vitamin and mineral supplements, especially if they are taking medications for chronic health conditions.
“Vitamins and minerals play an important role in strengthening the body's immune system, but the use of medicines and vitamins to treat or prevent a specific illness or disease must be based on scientific research that confirms their effectiveness. There is no evidence to support claims that certain vitamins or minerals can prevent or treat the new coronavirus. The use of these supplements, without your doctor’s approval, can lead to serious unintended consequences, particularly for individuals with health conditions. As an example, suddenly increasing your intake of Vitamin K can have serious consequences for people taking certain blood-thinning medications as it can alter the metabolism of these medications, and toxic levels of Vitamin A during pregnancy may lead to birth defects,” says Dr. Saqr.
Vitamin C has been studied for many years as a possible treatment for the common cold and sessional flu, and while some media outlets have reported a link between Vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 severity and mortality, Dr. Saqr says there is no evidence that either of these vitamins can prevent or treat COVID-19.
“Medical experts have found little to no benefit from Vitamin C for preventing or treating the common cold or sessional flu, and there is no evidence that this vitamin prevents or treats COVID-19. Taking excessive doses of Vitamin C can, however, cause a variety of side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, and even kidney stones,” said Dr. Saqr.
“The research on Vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 is too limited to be considered accurate. It would be premature to make any recommendations based on the limited studies conducted. However, it is important to note that there are serious side effects to long-term or excessive use of Vitamin D supplements, including hypercalcemia, which is an excess of calcium in the blood. Having too much calcium in the blood can lead to a wide range of complications and symptoms, including an irregular heartbeat,” added Dr. Saqr.
Zinc has also gained popularity as a potential COVID-19 treatment. Dr. Saqr says zinc is an essential mineral vital for immune system function and is important for wound healing and supporting normal growth and development. However, he says there is no evidence that it plays a role in COVID-19 prevention of treatment and that overconsumption of zinc can cause serious health consequences.
“It is always important to talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new vitamin or mineral supplement, especially if you are taking medication or have a health condition. Most people can get all the vitamins and minerals they need through eating a healthy, balanced diet that contains protein, fruits, and vegetables. Eating a healthy diet, along with getting enough sleep and physical activity, and adhering to social distancing and other infection prevention measures, is a much better path towards COVID-19 immunity than is taking vitamin and mineral supplements,” said Dr. Saqr.