Vitamin supplements could be part of reducing Covid risk – researchers

Vitamin supplements could play a small role in reducing the risk of Covid-19 in women, researchers have said.

Supplements could have a small effect on reducing the likelihood of catching Covid-19, according to the scientists behind a health tracker app.

The effect was only noticed in women and not men, researchers said.

But they cautioned that the effect was small and that the finding is yet to be backed up by clinical trials.

The debate over whether Vitamin D supplements reduces the risk of Covid-19 has raged for months.

There are some official studies ongoing to track people’s exact levels of vitamin D through blood tests and in depth questionnaires.

At the weekend ministers announced that 2.7 million vulnerable individuals in England will be offered a free winter supply of vitamin D by the Government.

The supplements were offered to boost people’s vitamin D levels while they spend more time indoors due to the virus.

But officials also acknowledged that any links between the supplement and Covid-19 are still being researched.

But the latest data which suggests there could be a role comes from an app tracking the health of millions of people throughout the pandemic.

The Zoe Covid Symptom Study asks participants to input their health status each day.

Early on in the pandemic 1.4 million app users input data about whether or not they use supplements.

Among this group more than 445,000 went on to be diagnosed with Covid-19.

And 126,000 were thought to have the disease based on their symptoms.

After analysing the data and comparing information between those who had, and had not had Covid-19, the researchers concluded that multivitamins, vitamin D, omega-3, and probiotic supplements all had a very small but statistically significant protective effect.

Vitamin C, zinc or garlic supplements had no detectable effect, they added.

The reduction in risk ranged from up to 9% for vitamin D; 14% for probiotics; 13% for multivitamins and 12% for omega 3.

Lead researcher Dr Cristina Menni from King’s College London said: “Our research is an observational study and not a clinical trial, so we can’t make strong recommendations based on the data we have.

“Until we have further evidence about the role of supplements from randomised controlled trials, we recommend following the NHS guidelines on vitamins usage as part of a healthy balanced diet.”

Professor Tim Spector added: “Many people think that taking vitamins and other supplements can help maintain a healthy immune system, but spending your money on supplements in the hope of trying to avoid getting Covid-19 is largely unjustified.

“You’re better off focusing on getting a healthy diet with diverse fresh vegetables and fruits, which should give you all the nutrients you need for a healthy immune system.

“Over the weekend, the Government announced it would be providing 2.7 million vulnerable individuals in England to be offered free winter supply of Vitamin D.

“Based on our research, we cannot tell whether vitamin D supplements will have any real impact on these high risk groups.”

Other scientists said the findings should be treated with caution.

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: “These are interesting results but, due to the way the study has been conducted, these data absolutely cannot tell us that taking such supplements ‘protects’ against infection from Covid-19.”

Guy Poppy, professor of ecology at the University of Southampton, said: “Whilst this is another interesting finding from the Zoe Covid-Symptom app, one should be cautious about how much one can really infer from this dataset, as recognised by the study authors.”