Three-country study finds most effective supplements to help combat Covid-19

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • A study found that probiotics, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and multivitamins may decrease one's chances of testing positive for Covid-19
  • Vitamin C, garlic or zinc did not appear to have the same benefits 
  • Supplements worked better for women than for men

New research has found a small but significant link between the use of probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, multivitamin or vitamin D supplements, and a lower risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

However, according to the study published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, these benefits were experienced by women, but not by men. 

Three countries

The researchers used data from people who self-reported regular dietary supplement use during the three months up to 31 July 2020. 

The Covid-19 Symptom Study app was used by 445 850 subscribers from the United States, United Kingdom and Sweden to self report their supplement usage.

Which supplements work?

The study’s findings show a significant association between users of omega-3 fatty acid, probiotic, multivitamin or vitamin D supplements and a lower risk of testing positive for infection with SARS-CoV-2.

The study further found that taking vitamin C, zinc, or garlic supplements was not linked with a lower risk of testing positive for the virus.

No clear benefits for men

The researchers observed that while there was a small but significant association between the use of probiotics, omega-3 fatty acid, multivitamin or vitamin D supplements and a lower risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in women, there were no clear benefits for men.

Regarding vitamin D specifically, there was a modest protective effect on infection, with a 9% reduction in the risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the UK, 24% in the US cohort and 19% in the Swedish group.

The protective effect in those taking multivitamin supplements was a 13% reduction in risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the UK, 12% in the US and 22% in Sweden.

According to the scientists, there may be a number of factors that make these supplements work better in women than in men.

“It is therefore plausible that: (i) supplements could better support the immune system of females than males, although the lack of consistency between countries is problematic; (ii) differences in body weight and body composition between males and females could mean that supplement dosing on a per body weight basis may be higher in females; (iii) there could be residual confounding due to sex differences in health-related behaviours, including Covid-19."

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

READ| How Taiwan beat Covid-19 – new study reveals clues to its success

READ| Covid-19: New study to probe whether vaccinated people can still spread the virus

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
32% - 9472 votes
No
68% - 20293 votes
Vote