IS THIS FINALLY PROOF VITAMIN C WILL HELP, TOO?
VITAMIN C supplements have been flying off the shelves in the belief that the nutrient may help protect us from the coronavirus — and early results from a trial in China may add to the demand.
Doctors in Wuhan ran a small trial to see if high-dose vitamin C can help treat severely ill Covid-19 patients.
Dr Peng Zhiyong, director of the intensive care unit at Zhongnan Hospital, part of the University of Wuhan, gave 50 patients either 12g of vitamin C or a water placebo via an intravenous drip, twice a day for a week. Both groups also received standard treatment — in this case, an anti-clotting drug to make oxygen more available to the lungs.
The patients’ progress was monitored for a further three weeks, during which time 35 per cent of those who got the placebo died, compared with a quarter of those who had the vitamin C drip.
According to Dr Zhiyong, the sickest patients showed the most benefit from the treatment. ‘They had less inflammation in their lungs and spent less time on ventilation,’ he says.
The dose used in the trial was far higher than the 40mg daily intake advised by the NHS. And vitamin C cannot be stored in the body — any excess is removed in urine and high doses can cause diarrhoea.
‘That’s true when you are well,’ says Dr Zhiyong, ‘but vitamin C is a key part of the body’s immune response to infection and gets used up very quickly as the virus takes hold,’ he says. ‘No patients suffered bowel problems in the trial.’
Dr Zhiyong decided to investigate highdose vitamin C as a potential treatment for Covid-19 because of previous research. ‘It had been used in patients during the SARS epidemic 17 years ago and they showed signs of improvement,’ he says.
A report published at the time said: ‘The possibility that vitamin C affects severe viral respiratory tract infections would seem to warrant further study.’
David Smith, an emeritus professor of pharmacology at the University of Oxford, adds: ‘This latest trial from China does make the case for more studies using high-dose vitamin C in intensive care. But we will have to wait until the full report to see the complete figures.’