Vitamin C as Prevention or Treatment to COVID-19?!

Vitamin C v.s. COVID19

Is It An Effective Way To Prevent And Treat COVID-19?

Before we go through the topic, I have provided a “References” section on the bottom of this page so that you could personally check the sources and researches that I used for this particular blog post.

According to numerous reports, vitamin C deficient people are more at risk of having SARS-CoV-2 or also known as COVID-19 because their immunity is impared. Vitamin C deficiency often leads to increased susceptibility to infections, poor wound healing and increased risk of pneumonia. Numerous research has suggested that up to 7% of the U.S. population are vitamin C deficient and this includes people that have cancer, diabetes inflammatory conditions, immunosuppression and smokers.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is important for the production of collagen and carnitine which plays a crucial role in immune response. Being a highly efficient antioxidant, it protects important biomolecules in our body such as carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and genetic material from being broken down to oxidants (a highly toxic substance) which are generated during normal cell metabolism or acquired environmental exposure. Humans, unlike most animals, cannot make vitamin C through their body that’s why we must obtain it through our diet. 

According to studies, certain cells in our immune system namely, phagocytes and T-cells, accumulate vitamin C to aid their performance. A deficiency in Vitamin C will lead to less resistance to multiple pathogens. 

Vitamin C is also a cofactor for many enzymes, most notably, those involved with collagen production (a protein that holds our body together and usually found in our bones, muscles, skin, tendons, and ligaments) and carnitine, which is a molecule that transports fatty acids into mitochondria to generate metabolic energy. 

It is also involved in production of hormones including norepinephrine and vasopressin that have a crucial role in cardiovascular system response to infection. 

Now that you know the importance of Vitamin C in our body, I am certain that the question “Will Vitamin C prevent me from having COVID-19?” are still left unanswered. Well on this next part, we will first provide you evidences about the effects of Vitamin C to COVID-19.

Evidences that will support taking vitamin C for COVID- 19

Throughout the years, there have been hundreds of studies about Vitamin C, which have conflicting results. The biggest issue regarding vitamin C studies is that most do not measure vitamin C concentrations before or after supplementation. With that, supplementation is unlikely to show any effects in people whose vitamin C levels are already high. 

Furthermore, COVID-19 is a new strain of the coronavirus family which means that it has a little amount of studies about it. But several studies in other infections or conditions suggest it may be beneficial in certain groups of people, particularly those who are vitamin C deficient and positive to COVID-19. Currently, there are two trials underway investigating the use of Vitamin C to treat severe COVID-19, one in New York and one in China. 

The beneficial effects of Vitamin C supplementation have been reported for the following:

  • Elderly people with an acute respiratory infections
  • Recurrent A.R.D.S. (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) 
  • Reducing severity and duration of common cold
  • Reducing length of hospital stay and symptoms in elderly patients with pneumonia
  • Reducing the duration of mechanical ventilation in people in ICU 
  • Preventing common cold and pneumonia

Research has shown that excretion of Vitamin C decreases during infections suggesting that more is utilized during times of need. So, now that evidence about the benefits of Vitamin C to multiple conditions have been provided, we must now know the symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency to be able to recognize people who badly need supplementation during this pandemic. 

SYMPTOMS OF VITAMIN C DEFICIENCY 

As a water-soluble vitamin, you can easily develop a deficiency as soon as 4 to 12 weeks. Studies have shown that hypovitaminosis C (low vitamin C levels indicated by a plasma vitamin C of <23 umol/L) is the fourth leading vitamin deficiency in the United States. 

The symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Scurvy (if left deficit has been left untreated)

Scurvy has killed two million sailors during the great voyages of discovery until Dr. James Lind, a Scottish surgeon in the Royal Navy proved in 1753 that citrus fruit successfully treats scurvy. However, vitamin C deficiency manifesting as scurvy is rare. 

HOW MUCH VITAMIN C SHOULD I BE TAKING?

According to theDietary Reference Intakes or DRIs, the recommended intakes of vitamin C have been developed by the Food and Nutrition Board. These are much higher than the amount required to prevent deficiency:

  • Infants, 0-6 months: 40mg (Adequate intake)
  • Infants, 7-12 months: 50mg (Adequate intake)
  • Children, 1-3 years: 15mg
  • Children, 4-8 years: 25mg
  • Children, 9-13 years: 45mg
  • Teenagers, 14-18 years: 75mg (boys), 65mg (girls)
  • Adults: 90mg (men), 75mg (women)
  • Pregnant women: 80mg (<18 years), 85mg (>18 years)
  • Breastfeeding women: 115mg (<18 years), 120mg (>18 years).

If we acquire infection or inflammation, our bodies will require more vitamin C. However, there are many factors that prevent the absorption of Vitamin C or increase a person’s requirement for it. The following are some of the factors:

  • People with cancer or who have a compromised immune system
  • People who drink alcohol daily or excessively
  • People with diabetes
  • People with lung conditions
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Smokers.

These people need to include an extra of 50-100mg of Vitamin C per day in their diet or in the form of supplements. 

TAKING TOO MUCH VITAMIN C CAN CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS

An amount of more that 2000mg of vitamin C per day can cause stomach aches, diarrhea or nausea. But, because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, an excessive intake will be excreted in the urine and over-supplementation rarely causes kidney stones. 

VITAMIN C CONTAINING FOODS

Fruits contain more Vitamin C than vegetables. Here are the following lists of foods that contain vitamin C (including the amount of Vitamin C they include). 

  • Red capsicum: 240mg per capsicum
  • Grapefruit: 94mg per grapefruit
  • Orange juice: 93mg per ¾ cup
  • Kiwifruit: 64-85mg per kiwifruit
  • Broccoli: 51mg per ½ cup cooked
  • Strawberries: 50mg per 10 strawberries
  • Orange: 46-70mg per orange
  • Sweet potato: 30mg per sweet potato
  • Tomato: 30mg per tomato
  • Cantaloupe: 29mg per ½ cup
  • Cauliflower: 26 per ½ cup (raw)
  • Silverbeet: 27mg per cup (boiled).

Overall, raw fruits and vegetables contain higher amounts of Vitamin C than boiled ones. Steaming and microwaving may also reduce vitamin C losses and prolonged storage can decrease Vitamin C levels. 

Scientists and doctors consider a diet that would supply you a 100-200 mg/day of vitamin C. This amount provides enough vitamin C to cover a healthy individual’s general requirements. In terms of people with medical conditions and who exercises a lot, increasing their dietary intake in Vitamin C must be considered. 

A consumption of five varied servings of fruits and vegetables can provide more than 200mg of vitamin C and breast milks are also considered as an adequate source of Vitamin C for the infants. However, most vitamin C supplements contain synthetic Vitamin C produced in the laboratory and there is no evidence that suggests synthetic supplements are less effective than other sources of Vitamin C. There are also more expensive Vitamin C’s that use whole foods however, there may be some degradation in Vitamin C content during the production process due to heat instability and short degradation time of the vitamin. 

Many experts still favor whole foods supplements such as the list above because they have other vitamins naturally present in the foods and a necessity to our immune system such as rutin, bioflavonoids, and other factors that could aid absorption and utilization of vitamin C within our body. 

REFERENCES

  1. Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C, and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. Published 2017 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/nu9111211
  2. Vitamin C. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
  3. Maxfield L, Crane JS. Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy) [Updated 2019 Nov 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493187/
  4. Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C Can Shorten the Length of Stay in the ICU: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):708. Published 2019 Mar 27. doi:10.3390/nu11040708
  5. Maxfield L, Crane J. Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy) Nov 19, 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493187/ Vitamin C. National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/

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