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Do supplements prevent severe COVID-19?

We have been dealing with COVID-19 in New Zealand for over 12 months, so I felt it was a timely opportunity to republish this series of blogs.

Many people are asking, “Do supplements prevent severe COVID-19?

Like all things COVID-19, there are divided opinions and research to back many of these ideas [1}. A clearer picture emerges by looking at the research (in particular when there are meta-analyses).

Often the data on nutrition about those who had COVID-19 and what biomarkers were seen in those who got very sick (or died) vs. those who had mild disease and recovered. So while we can say that people who died from COVID-19 might have been more likely to have a Vitamin D deficiency, we can’t say Vitamin D deficiency caused their severe disease.

So there is no definitive answer to the question. Do supplements prevent severe COVID-19? But we can support a nutrient-dense mixed diet to reduce the risk of severe disease based on our understanding of the importance of diet in a healthy immune response.

So what is the best approach? Good nutrition matters, and you can always improve the nutrient density of your diet. By nutrient density [2], we mean that for every 100 kcal of food we eat, there are more of essential nutrients such as Vitamins C and D and Zinc.

Eating more real and less processed or ultra-processed foods [3] improves nutrient density. One of the simplest ways to do this is to swap out things like cakes, biscuits, and processed cereals for nuts, fruit, and whole grains.

Suggestions to improve nutrient density now:

  • Consider including small amounts of animal-based products in your diet if you are vegetarian or vegan because this will improve your zinc intake.
  • Switch to muesli or porridge made with whole-grain oats rather than processed cereal,
  • Select vegetables, fruits, or nuts for snacks instead of cakes or biscuits.
  • Increase vegetable intake. Try to have them in 2 or more meals.
  • Have hummus or falafels instead of ham in your sandwiches.
  • Choose wholemeal pasta or brown rice.
  • Keep skins on potatoes and kumara.

The main nutrients highlighted in COVID-19 and supplements research are Vitamins D, C, and Zinc. In the next three blogs, I will write about improving your intake of these nutrients without relying on supplements.


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