Diet, Nutrition and Supplements: August 2020

No Evidence to Support Dietary Supplements Prevent or Cure COVID-19, Doctor Says

Ben Hill

INDIANAPOLIS, July 13, 2020 (WTHR) — This spring, a lot of people splurged on supplements as many reports show surging sales.

The thought is, a lot of people concerned about staying healthy during the coronavirus pandemic want to do everything they can to keep their minds and bodies strong.

Do supplements make a big difference? Some supplements make big claims, while others might be hoping to just do the body and mind some good.

Experts say the rush to reduce stress and sustain health is helping the supplement industry but may not be having the intended effects people are hoping for.

Dr. Cole Beeler, an infectious disease physician with Indiana University Health, wants people to do proper research before taking any supplements hoping to hold off COVID-19.

“At this time, there is no evidence supporting the use of dietary supplements to prevent or treat COVID-19,” Beeler said. “There are proven steps that everyone can take to actually help prevent exposure to and transmission of the virus.”

Of course, those are the steps we’ve heard from leading health organizations for months, which are hand washing, social distancing and sanitizing and wearing face coverings.

Tyler Townsend, a clinical dietitian with IU Health, said the key to health can’t always be found in a capsule or bottle. So, how does the body get the nutrients it needs?

Townsend said food is better absorbed into our bodies than any supplement. He’s not saying supplements are bad by any means, but to focus on food and diet first — sticking to the basics.

He recommends including fruits and low protein sources, such as chicken, turkey and fish into the weekly diet.

“Maybe in the morning, find a protein source, some eggs and some low-fat or non-fat dairy,” Townsend said.

Townsend also strongly encourages getting structured exercise in your day because he said it could help with those stress levels as well.

“When you’re in the sunlight, you get that Vitamin D. This way, you don’t always have to rely on a supplement, but maybe just simply going outside to get some sun is going to help improve those Vitamin D levels,” Townsend said.

Research shows sales of Vitamins D and C, Zinc, elderberry and echinacea, even melatonin shot up during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people are attracted to supplements for the simplicity. However, Townsend encourages purchasing with caution since many aren’t as heavily regulated and might contain adverse reactions.

The FDA and FTC are warning supplement companies not to make false claims. So far, seven companies have received warning letters.

Townsend said to do the research and talk to a doctor before taking medication, supplements or making major changes to a diet or exercise routine.


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