How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19: Nutrition and Supplements

Salad With Berries

In this mini-article, I review recent research showing how you can use nutrition and supplementation to reduce the risk of severe COVID-19.

The Role of Nutrition

Recently, researchers have highlighted how poor nutrition increases your risk of suffering severe COVID-19 if you become infected (1-6). Table One summarises the data from three studies that show how mortality changes with nutritional status (2, 4, 6). However, I urge you to read the original studies for a more sophisticated analysis of the data.

StudyNormal Nutrition (Mortality %)Moderate Malnutrition (Mortality %)Severe Malnutrition (Mortality %)
Wei et al0%5%6.5%
Çınar et al1%4.1%25.5%
Zhao et al0%13%43.2%
Mean0.33%7.03%37.23%
Table One. Covid-19 Mortality Rates of Patients with Covid-19 Grouped By Nutritional Status (adapted from (2, 4, 6)).

A Simple Approach For Optimal Nutrition

I’m a massive fan of the MIND diet (7). I’ll be writing a detailed article on the MIND diet soon. But, for now, refer to Table Two for a simple overview of the diet to get you going.

Mainly Eat These FoodsTry to Avoid These Foods
Green Leafy Vegetables: 6 or more servings a week
Other Vegetables: 1 or more servings a day
Nuts: 5 servings a week
Berries: 2 or more servings a week
Beans: 3 or more servings a week
Whole Grains: 3 servings a day
Fish (not fried): one or more meals a week
Poultry (not fried): two or more meals per week
Olive Oil: the primary source of fat in the diet
Wine: One glass per day
Red Meats
Butter and Stick Margarine
Cheese
Pastries and Sweets
Fried or Fast Foods
Table Two. Basic Food Groups and Recommended Servings of the Mind Diet

The consumption of leafy green vegetables, other vegetables, berries, and nuts will provide essential vitamins and micronutrients. They also offer fiber and support gut health.

Fish, poultry, and beans provide protein.

Whole grains offer a metabolically friendly source of carbohydrates.

Finally, consistent with our recent article on beer, moderate wine consumption improves the function of your immune system (8).

Supplementing with Vitamins and Micronutrients

Deficiencies in essential micronutrients increase your risk of disease and death from viral infection (9).

It would be best to get all of your nutrients through eating a balanced and healthy diet. The critical point is that supplementation is only required if you are deficient in one or more micro-nutrients or vitamins.

Unfortunately, there are a surprising number of people that are deficient in micronutrients.

For example, within the US population, 45% of people are low in vitamin A, 46% for vitamin C, 95% for vitamin D, 84% for vitamin E, and 15% for zinc (9). Further, older adults are far more likely to be deficient in vitamins essential for optimal immune function. Because vitamin deficiency increases your risk of viral infection (9), supplementation may help protect you from severe COVID-19.

Below, I focus on Vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc because these are the micronutrients with the most robust evidence for immune support (9).

Vitamin D and COVID-19

People infected with SARS-CoV-2 had lower serum vitamin D than people not infected with the virus, suggesting that adequate vitamin D protects you from SARS-CoV-2 infection (10).

Concerning COVID-19 disease outcome, there is a trend between people with low serum vitamin D and (i) increased COVID-10 disease severity, (ii) increased need for intensive care, (iii) increased requirement for forced ventilation, and (iv) increased risk of mortality (10).

Unfortunately, these results did not reach statistical significance due to the poor quality of the studies analyzed. However, the overall trend does support a role for vitamin D in protecting you from severe COVID-19.

Furthermore, two of the three clinical trials analyzed showed that vitamin D supplementation reduced disease severity, with no effect on the third trial (10).

Collectively, the combined data support vitamin D supplementation as a way for you to (i) avoid infection and (ii) reduce the severity of COVID-19 should you become infected (10). 

Zinc and COVID-19

You need to maintain adequate levels of zinc for your immune system to work effectively.

For this reason, zinc deficiency makes people more vulnerable to intestinal and respiratory infections. Unfortunately, the elderly, vegans and vegetarians, and individuals with chronic diseases are often deficient in zinc. 

Multiple clinical trials have shown that zinc supplementation shortens the duration of the common cold (11). In addition, there are good reasons to believe that zinc supplementation will also protect you from severe COVID-19 (12, 13). Indeed, the only clinical trial performed to date showed that zinc supplementation improved COVID-19 outcomes (14).

Thus, the collective data support the hypothesis that zinc supplementation is protective against severe COVID-19.

Vitamin C and COVID-19

Vitamin C is interesting.

Although most people believe that vitamin C protects you against respiratory viral infections, this is generally not the case. Analysis of 24 clinical trials showed that vitamin C supplementation at 200 mg/day did not reduce the common cold incidence (15). However, although the effects weren’t dramatic, vitamin C supplementation did tend to shorten the duration and severity of colds (15).

It’s a different story for athletes. For example, in marathon runners, skiers, and soldiers on sub-arctic exercises, vitamin C supplementation reduced the incidence of colds by a whopping 52% (15)!

Thus, even if you are sedentary, vitamin C supplementation likely has some benefit in protecting you from COVID-19.

Crucially, vitamin C supplementation may provide significant protection against COVID-19 and other viruses if you are training hard or competing at a high level in sport.

Take-Home Message

More infectious and virulent SARS-CoV-2 variants are currently sweeping through communities. Fortunately, you can reduce the chance of succumbing to severe COVID-19 simply by improving your nutrition and ensuring that you are not deficient in essential vitamins and minerals.

Nutrition And Supplements For Covid 1
Nutrition And Supplements For Covid 1

References and Further Reading

1.            L. Curtis, Good nutrition critical to prevent Covid 19 mortality. Heart Lung 50, 441 (2021).

2.            T. Çınar et al., Is prognostic nutritional index a predictive marker for estimating all-cause in-hospital mortality in COVID-19 patients with cardiovascular risk factors? Heart Lung 50, 307-312 (2021).

3.            D. Bedock et al., Prevalence and severity of malnutrition in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Clin Nutr ESPEN 40, 214-219 (2020).

4.            C. Wei et al., Evaluation of the nutritional status in patients with COVID-19. J Clin Biochem Nutr 67, 116-121 (2020).

5.            R. Wang et al., The Prognostic Nutritional Index is associated with mortality of COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China. J Clin Lab Anal 34, e23566 (2020).

6.            X. Zhao et al., Evaluation of Nutrition Risk and Its Association With Mortality Risk in Severely and Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr 45, 32-42 (2021).

7.            M. C. Morris et al., MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement 11, 1015-1022 (2015).

8.            S. Cohen, Psychosocial Vulnerabilities to Upper Respiratory Infectious Illness: Implications for Susceptibility to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Perspect Psychol Sci 16, 161-174 (2021).

9.            A. F. Gombart, A. Pierre, S. Maggini, A Review of Micronutrients and the Immune System-Working in Harmony to Reduce the Risk of Infection. Nutrients 12,  (2020).

10.          A. Bassatne et al., The link between COVID-19 and VItamin D (VIVID): A systematic review and meta-analysis. Metabolism 119, 154753 (2021).

11.          H. Hemilä, Zinc lozenges and the common cold: a meta-analysis comparing zinc acetate and zinc gluconate, and the role of zinc dosage. JRSM Open 8, 2054270417694291 (2017).

12.          D. N. Marreiro et al., Antiviral and Immunological Activity of Zinc and Possible Role in COVID-19. Br J Nutr, 1-21 (2021).

13.          E. Finzi, Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 with high dose oral zinc salts: A report on four patients. Int J Infect Dis 99, 307-309 (2020).

14.          P. M. Carlucci et al., Zinc sulfate in combination with a zinc ionophore may improve outcomes in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. J Med Microbiol 69, 1228-1234 (2020).

15.          H. Hemilä, E. Chalker, Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013, Cd000980 (2013).

Acknowledgements

Images provided by DronG and dulezidar

Disclaimer

The material displayed on this website is provided without any guarantees, conditions or warranties as to its accuracy.
Information written and expressed on this website is for education purposes and interest only. It is not intended to replace advice from your medical or healthcare professional.

You are encouraged to make your own health care choices based on your own research and in conjunction with your qualified practitioner.

The information provided on this website is not intended to provide a diagnosis, treatment or cure for any diseases. You should seek medical attention before undertaking any diet, exercise, other health program or other procedure described on this website.

To the fullest extent permitted by law we hereby expressly exclude all warranties and other terms which might otherwise be implied by statute, common law or the law of equity and must not be liable for any damages whatsoever, including but without limitation to any direct, indirect, special, consequential, punitive or incidental damages, or damages for loss of use, profits, data or other intangibles, damage to goodwill or reputation, injury or death, or the cost of procurement of substitute goods and services, arising out of or related to the use, inability to use, performance or failures of this website or any linked sites and any materials or information posted on those sites, irrespective of whether such damages were foreseeable or arise in contract, tort, equity, restitution, by statute, at common law or otherwise.

Author

Posted in
Woman Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra for Better Sleep

Disrupted sleep increases anxiety and depression. Yoga Nidra is an effective method that has helped many people overcome insomnia.

Beautiful Woman Running On Treadmill

Low-Intensity Cardio for Metabolic Health

Emerging research shows that low-intensity cardio is the best way to improve your metabolic and cardiovascular health.

Strong bones, strong brain.

Strong Bones, Strong Mind

Regular exercise releases osteocalcin from your bones. Once in circulation, osteocalcin enters your brain to support learning and memory.

Leave a Comment





Woman Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra for Better Sleep

Disrupted sleep increases anxiety and depression. Yoga Nidra is an effective method that has helped many people overcome insomnia.

Beautiful Woman Running On Treadmill

Low-Intensity Cardio for Metabolic Health

Emerging research shows that low-intensity cardio is the best way to improve your metabolic and cardiovascular health.

Strong bones, strong brain.

Strong Bones, Strong Mind

Regular exercise releases osteocalcin from your bones. Once in circulation, osteocalcin enters your brain to support learning and memory.