Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential vitamin. Adults need about 45mg of vitamin C a day, and you can get it by eating fruit and vegetables (World Health Organisation). If you don’t get enough of this vitamin, that can lead to scurvy, a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C.
In March 2020, claims circulated in social and mainstream media suggesting that vitamin C could be used as a treatment for COVID-19. These claims were made by a number of people and included stories of doctors using vitamin C to treat patients with COVID-19 in hospital. Some claims recommended taking large doses of vitamin C to ward off the coronavirus.
Using vitamin C for preventing and treating colds and flu has long been controversial. Although vitamin C supports the immune system (European Food Safety Authority), there’s little evidence that it can prevent or treat colds, let alone the new coronavirus disease.
A recent Cochrane systematic review found that the evidence is too limited and low in quality to draw any firm conclusions on the role of vitamin C supplementation in the prevention or treatment of pneumonia.
In most people, vitamin C supplements do not prevent the common cold. The common cold is a mild infection that causes little harm on its own. By contrast, COVID-19 is a much more serious and harmful disease. There is no evidence vitamin C protects against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Taking vitamin C at less than 1000mg a day is unlikely to cause any harm, but high doses of vitamin C can cause stomach upset and diarrhoea.
There is an ongoing study looking at the potential of treating COVID-19 infections using high doses of vitamin C. This trial is not yet finished, and results are expected in September 2020.
Currently, there is no high-quality evidence to support the use of Vitamin C in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
Things to Remember
Remember, personal experiences or anecdotes (stories) are, by themselves, an unreliable way to find out about the effects of taking supplements.
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