Do Supplements to Prevent Coronavirus Work?

Debate rages over whether supplements can prevent infection from the novel coronavirus—or minimize the severity of infection when it comes. On the one hand, skeptics warn about the dangers of credulous patients latching onto unproven remedies. Writing for Science Based Medicine, Steven Novella warns against “quack remedies” like “colloidal silver.” On the other hand, researchers have found some potentially promising leads for therapies. Cardiovascular research scientist, James DiNicolantonio, published an intriguing article in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, which explores using nutraceuticals as tools to fight the novel coronavirus. These include: lipoic acid, spirulina, selenium, glucosamine, zinc, yeast beta-glucan, and elderberry. 

DiNicolantonio and his coauthor note that, since this coronavirus is new, we haven’t had time to conduct science about what can cure or prevent it. However, it’s worth looking at strategies that have generally worked to thwart other coronaviruses. As this summary notes, “Both influenza and coronavirus cause an inflammatory storm in the lungs and it is this inflammatory storm that leads to acute respiratory distress, organ failure, and death. Certain nutraceuticals may help to reduce the inflammation in the lungs from RNA viruses and others may also help boost type 1 interferon response to these viruses, which is the body’s primary way to help create antiviral antibodies to fight off viral infections.”

Other interesting research suggests that sauna-ing and hot baths may be useful for preventing flus and colds, perhaps due to the fact that hot temperature exposure causes the body to produce heat shock proteins (which fevers also induce), which have been shown to interfere with replication of RNA viruses.

Of course, we’re in the early stages of the pandemic, and it is unclear what strategies, if any, can protect people from getting sick.

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