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The Scoop - Summer 2020

Summer 2020

Should you take a dietary supplement during the pandemic?

Like many people, you might wonder if you should take a dietary supplement to increase your immunity or improve your overall health in these unprecedented times. Some of you have asked us, for example, whether to take zinc or vitamin C, or if copper kills the COVID-19 virus.

There is no scientific evidence that any vitamin, mineral, or other dietary supplement can prevent or cure COVID-19. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to many companiesexternal link disclaimer for selling products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure this infection.

Your healthcare provider and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)external link disclaimer are the best sources of information on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. For zinc, vitamin C, and other nutrients, here’s what you need to know:

  • Everyone needs vitamins and minerals for good health. The amounts you need, which are based mainly on your age and sex, include what you get from the foods and beverages you consume, as well as any supplements you take. So, whether you need a vitamin or mineral supplement largely depends on how much you already get from the foods and beverages you consume.
  • Vitamins and minerals have unique roles in the body. Calcium, for example, helps keep your bones strong. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
  • Our bodies need some nutrients for a healthy immune system. Certain nutrients, including zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E help keep your immune system strong. Therefore, if you have a deficiency, your immunity will be lower, and you might be more likely to get sick. But unless you have a deficiency, taking more vitamins and minerals won’t increase your immunity. It’s like baking bread that needs one packet of yeast. Adding more yeast won’t do any good.
  • High doses of some vitamins and minerals can cause health problems. Many vitamins and minerals have “upper limits” because they are unsafe at high doses. Getting too much zinc, for example, can cause nausea and vomiting, and high amounts of copper can cause liver damage. In addition, many nutrients, like vitamin E, can interact or interfere with certain medications.
  • Focus on eating a nutritious variety of foods for good health and a strong immune system. Following a healthy eating pattern that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein can help you get the nutrients your body needs.
  • Take a supplement if your healthcare provider recommends it. Talk with your healthcare provider for advice because dietary supplements may be recommended in some circumstances. For example, people who smoke need more vitamin C than nonsmokers; older adults and people with dark skin might not get enough vitamin D; and some vegetarians might not get enough zinc or vitamin B12.

If you decide to take a dietary supplement, check out our fact sheets:

Federal government resources on COVID-19 and your health:

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Consulte nuestra información basada en la ciencia para ayudarle a tomar las mejores decisiones para su salud con respecto al uso de suplementos dietéticos.

Have more questions about dietary supplements? Ask the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).

ODS provides general information about dietary supplement ingredients in response to questions from consumers, health professionals, students, and others. While ODS cannot answer specific medical questions, make referrals, or give personal guidance on the use of dietary supplements, ODS’s registered dietitians on staff reply to each inquiry and give useful, scientific, and evidence-based information. Send your questions about dietary supplements to ODS: ods.od.nih.gov/contact.

COVID-19 is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation.

Get the latest public health information from CDC: https://www.coronavirus.govexternal link disclaimer
Get the latest research information from NIH: https://www.nih.gov/coronavirusexternal link disclaimer

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About ODS

The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation's medical research agency—supporting scientific studies that turn discovery into health.

Contact Us

Office of Dietary Supplements
National Institutes of Health
6100 Executive Boulevard, Room 3B01
Bethesda, MD 20892-7517

Email: ods@nih.gov
Website: https://ods.od.nih.gov