Intranasal Vitamin A for COVID Anosmia

A new study will consider whether vitamin A can help those who have lost their sense of smell after having Covid-19.

The 12-week ‘Apollo trial’ will treat people who have experienced smell loss or an altered sense of smell as a result of viral infections with nasal drops containing the vitamin, the University of East Anglia (UEA) said in a statement.

The university said research from Germany had shown the potential benefit of the vitamin, and its team “will explore how this treatment works to help repair tissues in the nose damaged by viruses”.

The researchers hope the study “could one day help improve the lives of millions around the world who suffer from smell loss, by returning their fifth sense”.

It comes after a study by an international group of smell experts, published in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology in April, advised against using steroids to treat smell loss and instead suggested “smell training”.

One of the researchers, Prof Carl Philpott from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said there was “very little evidence” steroids will help with smell loss and they have “potential side effects including fluid retention, high blood pressure, and problems with mood swings and behaviour”.

Instead, the scientists recommended those who have experienced smell loss sniff at least four different odours, twice daily for several months.

Prof Philpott said the method “aims to help recovery based on neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to reorganise itself to compensate for a change or injury”.

Those interested in participating in the university’s vitamin A study are asked to seek a referral from their GP to the Smell and Taste Clinic at the James Paget Hospital in Norfolk’s Great Yarmouth.

The study, which is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research will begin recruiting participants in December.

Why do people lose their sense of smell after contracting Covid?

It's estimated that roughly 86% of people who have Covid-19 lose some of all of their ability to smell, with the majority of people who did contracting a mild form of the disease.

Scientists don’t fully understand why this is, but have hypothesised that patients with milder forms of the virus may have higher levels of antibodies that restrict it from spreading to the nose.

Researchers also say that it could be due to there simply being a larger number of milder cases.

The majority of people regain their sense of smell within three weeks of recovering from the virus itself, but nearly 25% of affected people have reported still having limited or no sense of smell more than 60 days after first noticing it.

What foods contain vitamin A?

Although this trial is specifically examining how vitamin A works as a nasal spray, the vitamin can also be found in certain foods.

Also known as retinol, common sources of vitamin A include cheese, eggs, oily fish, milk, yoghurt, and liver products.

Your body will also convert beta-carotene into vitamin A when consumed.

Sources of beta-carotene include yellow, red, and green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, and red peppers, and yellow fruit, like mango, papaya, and apricots.

There is no evidence yet to suggest that eating vitamin A will have an effect on a loss or altered sense of smell.

Benefits of Vitamin A

Retinol soared to popularity because of its ability to retain and promote the production of collagen, helping maintain the skin's structure, firmness and elasticity. It may also assist to speed up cell turnover, which helps smoothen the skin surface and even out discolorations.17

The merits of retinol go beyond reducing the visible signs of aging; it may also help provide the benefits associated with vitamin A, which include:
  • Helps patients with COVID-19 - summary results of 6 vitamin A and COVID-19 studies are available on this dedicated webpage: The authors from a study published in the Systematic Reviews in Pharmacy concluded that there is a great benefit of the use of vitamin A in patients with COVID-19 and to close contacts. Adding vitamin A to the management protocol of COVID-19 is recommended.
  • Helps improve visual health — Consuming adequate amounts of retinol may help prevent eye problems such as night blindness, cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Helps strengthen the immune system — he retinoic acid synthesized from retinol helps promote healthy immune system by modulating the response of macrophages, which in turn inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
  • Helps prevent oxidative damage — Retinol is a lipid-soluble antioxidant that may help fight the damaging effects of free radicals on your cells.
  • Helps support proper bone development — Adequate consumption of retinol may help support proper bone formation, as it works together with vitamin D and K2 to mineralize bones and teeth.
  • Helps reduce the risk of cancer — Retinol may help inhibit the growth and development of certain types of cancers, including skin, breast, oral cavity, lung, gastrointestinal, prostatic, hepatic and bladder cancers.
  • Helps alleviate certain skin conditions — The antioxidant properties of retinol, along with its ability to help maintain high levels of collagen and promote cell turnover, may help ease or prevent skin problems like acne, dryness and psoriasis.



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