Vitamin C with Zinc Supplements: Benefits, COVID-19 and Immune System 2021
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Humans, unlike most animals, are unable to synthesise vitamin C endogenously, so it is an essential dietary component.
The recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men.
While it’s commonly advised to get your vitamin C intake from foods, many people turn to supplements to meet their needs.
Can Vitamin C Protect You against COVID-19?As of January 2021, there are more than 50 studies (ClinicalTrials.gov) in progress on the use of vitamin C in COVID-19 and some are in combination with Vitamin D and/or Zinc and/or Hydroxychloroquine.
However, Vitamin C is not a face mask or a sanitiser; and cannot be compared with more effective methods recommended by health authorities like social distancing, proper hand hygiene practices, face masks and personal protective equipments (PPEs). Vitamin C does not prevent a virus from entering the body as compared to physical measures mentioned above. It may sound like an obvious common sense answer but I do read comments from people thinking that there is no need to practice those measures mentioned above just because they are on Vitamin C supplement!
There is also a common confusion with the terms 'primary prevention' and 'secondary prevention' on the internet. Primary prevention includes those measures that prevent the onset of illness or to prevent the virus from entering into your body in the first place. Secondary prevention includes those measures that lead to early diagnosis and prompt treatment of a disease. This is what normally doctors would refer to when it comes to hospital treatment. The secondary prevention here is to prevent the patient from becoming more serious or to prevent death.
Doses that are magnitudes higher than the DV (daily value) are recommended to be given through IV to improve lung function, which may help keep a patient off of mechanical ventilation or life support (qq.com, PubMed, PubMed).
Additionally, a 2019 review found that both oral and IV high dose vitamin C treatment may aid people admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) for critical illnesses by reducing ICU stay length by 8% and shortening the duration of mechanical ventilation by 18.2% (PubMed).
Though high dose IV vitamin C is currently being tested to see if it can improve lung function in people with COVID-19, no evidence suggests that high doses of oral vitamin C supplements can help with the disease. In fact, they can cause complications like diarrhea (nih.gov).
Vitamin C To Boost Your Immune System
One of the main reasons people take vitamin C supplements is to boost their immunity, as vitamin C is involved in many parts of the immune system.
First, vitamin C helps encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection (PubMed).
Second, vitamin C helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals.
Third, vitamin C is an essential part of the skin’s defense system. It’s actively transported to the skin, where it can act as an antioxidant and help strengthen the skin’s barriers (ScienceDirect).
Studies have also shown that taking vitamin C may shorten wound healing time (PubMed, PubMed).
What’s more, low vitamin C levels have been linked to poor health outcomes.
Benefits of Vitamin CPeople who have pneumonia tend to have lower vitamin C levels, and vitamin C supplements have been shown to shorten the recovery time (PubMed, PubMed).
A large review of 29 studies in 11,306 people demonstrated that regularly supplementing with vitamin C at an average dose of 1–2 grams per day reduced the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children (PubMed).
Interestingly, the review also demonstrated that regularly taking vitamin C supplements reduced common cold occurrence in individuals under high physical stress, including marathon runners and soldiers, by up to 50% (PubMed, PubMed).
Additionally, high dose intravenous vitamin C treatment has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in people with severe infections, including sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) resulting from viral infections (PubMed, PubMed).
What Is Zinc?Zinc is considered an essential nutrient, meaning that your body can’t produce or store it.
For this reason, you must get a constant supply through your diet.
Zinc is required for numerous processes in your body, including (ods.od.nih.gov):
- Gene expression
- Enzymatic reactions
- Immune function
- Protein synthesis
- DNA synthesis
- Wound healing
- Growth and development
Foods that don’t naturally contain this mineral, such as breakfast cereals, snack bars and baking flour, are often fortified with synthetic forms of zinc.
You can also take zinc supplements or multi-nutrient supplements that provide zinc.
Because of its role in immune function, zinc is likewise added to some nasal sprays, lozenges and other natural cold treatments.
Benefits of Zinc
Boosts Your Immune SystemZinc helps keep your immune system strong.
Because it is necessary for immune cell function and cell signaling, a deficiency can lead to a weakened immune response.
Zinc supplements stimulate particular immune cells and reduce oxidative stress.
For example, a review of seven studies demonstrated that 80–92 mg per day of zinc may reduce the length of the common cold by up to 33% (Trusted Source).
What’s more, zinc supplements significantly reduce the risk of infections and promote immune response in older adults (Trusted Source).
Accelerates Wound HealingZinc is commonly used in hospitals as a treatment for burns, certain ulcers and other skin injuries (Trusted Source).
Because this mineral plays critical roles in collagen synthesis, immune function and inflammatory response, it is necessary for proper healing.
In fact, your skin holds a relatively high amount — about 5% — of your body’s zinc content (Trusted Source).
While a zinc deficiency can slow wound healing, supplementing with zinc can speed recovery in people with wounds.
For example, in a 12-week study in 60 people with diabetic foot ulcers, those treated with 200 mg of zinc per day experienced significant reductions in ulcer size compared to a placebo group (Trusted Source).
May Reduce the Risk of Certain Age-Related DiseasesZinc may significantly reduce your risk of age-related diseases, such as pneumonia, infection and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Zinc may relieve oxidative stress and improve immune response by boosting the activity of T-cells and natural killer cells, which help protect your body from infection (Trusted Source).
Older adults who supplement with zinc experience improved influenza vaccination response, reduced risk of pneumonia and boosted mental performance (Trusted Source, Trusted Source, Trusted Source).
In fact, one study determined that 45 mg per day of zinc may decrease infection rates in older adults by nearly 66% (Trusted Source).
Additionally, in a large study in over 4,200 people, taking daily antioxidant supplements — vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene — plus 80 mg of zinc decreased vision loss and significantly reduced the risk of advanced AMD (Trusted Source).
May Help Treat AcneAcne is a common skin disease that is estimated to affect up to 9.4% of the global population (Trusted Source).
Acne is driven by obstruction of oil-producing glands, bacteria and inflammation (Trusted Source).
Studies suggest that both topical and oral zinc treatments can effectively treat acne by reducing inflammation, inhibiting the growth of P. acnes bacteria and suppressing oily gland activity (Trusted Source).
People with acne tend to have lower levels of zinc. Therefore, supplements may help reduce symptoms (Trusted Source).
Decreases InflammationZinc decreases oxidative stress and reduces levels of certain inflammatory proteins in your body (Trusted Source).
Oxidative stress leads to chronic inflammation, a contributing factor in a wide array of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer and mental decline (Trusted Source).
In a study in 40 older adults, those who took 45 mg of zinc per day experienced greater reductions in inflammatory markers than a placebo group (Trusted Source).