Study: Vitamin C, zinc don’t lessen COVID-19 symptoms or duration

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If you’ve been taking extra vitamin C or zinc hoping it would lessen COVID-19 symptoms — as many believe it does for a cold — you can stop.

A new randomized study by the Cleveland Clinic found whether on their own or combined, the two “did not significantly decrease the duration of symptoms compared with standard of care.”

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In fact, the researchers stopped the study early because there was no real difference found between the four groups: those getting standard care; those getting extra vitamin C; those getting extra zinc; those getting extra of both.

The study participants were 214 ambulatory patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“Zinc gluconate and ascorbic acid are commonly available over-the-counter supplements that patients take for the treatment of viral illnesses. Zinc has been purported to increase polymorphonuclear cells’ ability to fight infection, and ascorbic acid is an antioxidant that may play a role in immune response,” the researchers wrote. “Limited evidence suggests that high doses of ascorbic acid and zinc gluconate may reduce duration of common cold symptoms and decrease the severity of symptoms.”

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For the study, participants were asked to track their illness daily based on symptoms. They also filled out a questionnaire at the beginning of the study and every week to determine if they were hospitalized or experienced adverse effects of the supplements.

The researchers set a primary end point at “the number of days required to reach a 50% reduction in symptom severity score from peak symptom score.”

However, an operational and safety monitoring board within the Cleveland Clinic recommended stopping the study for futility. The futility criteria was met for the three active treatment groups compared with the usual care group. Data on the 214 participants enrolled at the time of study termination are the final data for this study.

The study was published Friday in JAMA Network Open.

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