Vitamins strengthen the immune system. That’s true – but it always depends on how these vitamins are taken. The body can handle them best if they arrive through food or, in the case of vitamin D, through sun exposure. However, due to quarantine and lockdown paired with autumn and winter, this is not that easy. So use nutritional supplements? Unfortunately, they don’t always bring anything – and can even be dangerous. With Vitamins against the coronavirus can help by strengthening the immune system. But they are not miracle cures – especially not if they are taken uncontrollably through dietary supplements.
Vitamins to protect against Covid-19: studies on vitamin D and corona should be treated with caution
In the event of an overdose – and that happens quickly with vitamin preparations – this can even be dangerous, especially in the case of vitamin D. And especially against the background that there are currently reports that a vitamin D deficiency makes the body more susceptible to a I am infected with Sars-CoV-2.
The background to this are various studies such as that of Marta Castillo, a pulmonologist from Spain, which sound incredibly promising. The scientist examined 50 Covid 19 patients who received vitamin D. Only one of them ended up in the intensive care unit. In a comparison group without vitamin D intake, half were later in the intensive care unit.
But the study is poorly prepared – that is not noticeable at first glance. Both groups are thus made up unevenly. Approximately only 6 percent from the vitamin D group had type 2 diabetes, but 19 percent from the placebo group were diabetic. And half in the placebo group suffered from high blood pressure; in the vitamin D group it was only a quarter. “That means that the sick people were in the group without vitamin D,” explains Martin Smollich, pharmacologist and professor at the Institute for Nutritional Medicine at the Schleswig-Holstein University Hospital in Lübeck, opposite dw.com.
However, people with the above-mentioned previous illnesses more often suffer severe courses of Covid-19, explains Smollich: “So it’s no wonder that the patients in the group without vitamin D ended up in the intensive care unit more often.” Such a study cannot describe the influence of vitamin D on the course of corona disease very well.
Why vitamin D supplements can be dangerous
Reports about vitamin D as a miracle cure against corona become dangerous when people resort to any readily available remedy out of fear. And what’s easier than throwing in a high-dose pill from the drugstore? Especially in times of insufficient sun exposure and ignorance of the tricks of proper nutrition, reaching for food supplements is incredibly easy.
But be careful: Especially in times of Corona, this can be dangerous in that vitamin D is a fat-soluble molecule that can penetrate cells and change the gene function there, explains immunobiologist Prof. Ingrid Förster from Bonn to the Cologne Express . But that is a double-edged sword: “It can both promote and suppress the immune response.”
Too much vitamin D can lead to kidney damage
To do this, we need to understand how the body uses vitamin D. We only take in 20 percent of the vitamin through food, the rest comes from UV radiation that affects the body. The body can thus produce exactly the amount of vitamin D it needs. Incidentally, it is sufficient to expose the face, hands and arms to daylight, in the best case to the sun, for around 10-15 minutes two to three times a week.
The body also stores the vitamin in fat and muscles, so that the dose can be balanced out with supplies in winter. Overdosing via sunlight is not possible because the body only produces as much vitamin D as it needs. (Nevertheless, sun protection is of course important for prolonged sun exposure to protect the skin itself from burns!)
However, too many units of the sun vitamin can be supplied to the body through dietary supplements with vitamin D. This can even lead to kidney damage. The situation is similar with vitamin A, which is also fat-soluble, and can cause skin and liver damage if overdosed.
Similar “fake news” about vitamin C.
But the wrong messages don’t stop there. Advice is also circulating that vitamin C can help heal Covid-19, as experience from China has shown. However, how exactly vitamin C affects the immune system is still not fully understood. What definitely doesn’t help: Hot lemon, for example, because the hot water breaks the vitamin and becomes ineffective.
After all, it is known today, according to the University of Bonn, which has a focus on immunology and nutrition, “that vitamin C inhibits the release of reactive oxygen molecules. But: That is more desirable in infections because it is an antibacterial mechanism.”
However, unlike vitamins A and D, vitamin C is water-soluble and can be excreted from the body if too much is present. You should only be careful with the acidic effect. Lozenges can damage tooth enamel.
Vitamins through food are and will remain the most effective
It is still clear that vitamins strengthen the immune system. Our bodies can still best absorb them through food or, in the case of vitamin D, through sun exposure. By the way: You can use vegetables rather than fruit. In contrast to fruit, this has less sugar, but more phytochemicals and fiber.
Not only that, by the way – Smollich emphasizes: Almost all of the high-risk diseases that can negatively affect the course of Covid-19 are diet-related diseases: Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure. They all have one thing in common: people who suffer from it usually eat the wrong diet and often suffer from a nutritional deficiency. Although they consume a lot of foods, which mostly simply have a high energy density, but which lack important micronutrients, i.e. vitamins and trace elements.
Micronutrient deficiencies weaken the immune system
However, a lack of important nutrients weakens our immune system, more precisely even the various defense mechanisms of it. Pathogens, i.e. harmful substances such as viruses or bacteria, find it much easier to cause damage in the body – precisely because that is Immune system without the important micronutrients is too weak to fight them properly.
“In Germany the connection between diet and illness is often completely ignored. And I find that very dramatic, because it is something that could have been modified,” explains Smollich dw.com continue. “Instead, the corona pandemic hit a society in which diet-related diseases are almost the norm.”
In the case of vitamin D, the following applies: the sun helps best. Anyone who is not in quarantine is allowed to leave the apartment or house. Your own balcony or garden are also permitted. Therefore, even in the current pandemic, we should always treat ourselves to some sun. If you cannot do this, you should always consult a doctor about taking dietary supplements. Supplementation can make sense, especially in old age – by the way, also in the case of vitamin D, because the body can no longer produce it as well from solar radiation itself over time.
But: Please do not just use drugs from the drugstore. Öko-Test has found that vitamin D tablets are often overdosed. A doctor should first determine whether there is actually a deficiency. If this is the case, specific supplements can be added. And with means whose composition is such that they are well absorbed by the body. Because there are also certain hurdles.
By the way, stopping smoking can really help against severe courses of Covid-19! Also always helpful for the immune system, even outside of the Coronavirus-Times: healthy sleep, sufficient exercise and little stress! Stay healthy!