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Explained: Can vitamin C prevent or cure novel coronavirus infection?

Can vitamin C help you ward off the novel coronavirus infection?

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: March 24, 2020 4:32:21 pm
Explained: Can vitamin C prevent or cure novel coronavirus infection? Doctors wearing masks at a clinic where they provide free homeopathy medicine for prevention of COVID-19 at a government run homeopathic hospital in New Delhi on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo: Manish Swarup)

Can vitamin C help you ward off the novel coronavirus infection? This has been one of many theories on social media since the outbreak spread globally, but the answer is no.

There is no evidence that vitamin C can prevent an infection. Vitamin C is, however, still good for you, and can help the body’s immune system fight the virus if it does infect someone. But again, there is no evidence that it can cure a patient either.

When the body is fighting an infection, it experiences “oxidative stress”, a process that eventually leads to inflammation in cell tissue. Vitamin C not only helps cells fight oxidative stress but also helps clean up this cellular mess by producing specialised cells to mount an immune response. “So the role of vitamin C here is a bit like cleaning up the football ground after the game,” University of Newcastle nutritionist and dietician Prof Clare Collins wrote in The Conversation.

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Given that vitamin C has never been conclusively established as a cure against the common cold, which is also caused by a coronavirus, experts believe it is unlikely that vitamin C can cure or prevent a novel coronavirus infection.

Again, while vitamin C is good for the body’s immune system, too much of it can be harmful. The New York Times quoted Dr Frank Esper, a paediatric infectious disease specialist, as saying that excessive vitamin C can be damaging to the stomach and kidneys. Dr Mark J Mulligan, another infectious diseases specialist, told The NYT that there is no evidence that supplements like zinc, green tea and echinacea are beneficial to prevent coronavirus.

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The flu shot is also being propped up in social media — falsely — as a novel coronavirus cure. A flu shot helps against the flu by boosting the recipient’s health, but it is not known to have any impact on the coronavirus.

Here’s a quick coronavirus guide for you to stay updated: Who all should be tested for Covid-19 and when? | How should you quarantine yourself? | How often (and how) should you clean your home? | What is the Janata Curfew announced by PM Modi? | Who are restricted from coming to India, and from when? | How long can the virus live on surfaces or in air around you? | Still more Coronavirus Q&A Explained news here

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