Everyone knows that vitamin C is essential for immunity sales of both oranges and vitamin C tablets have risen sharply during the Covid pandemic. But can vitamin C treat or prevent Covid infection from becoming severe? A review of 12 studies, including five gold-standard randomised controlled trials, shows that this simple vitamin can save lives when given the correct dose.
The scientific evidence is clear; vitamin C can potentially help prevent Covid and, if taken once infected, can also reduce symptoms and duration of illness. So why aren’t we being told to supplement with vitamin C? The review of the 12 studies, including the five randomised controlled trials, is published in the journal Life and was carried out and funded by VitaminC4Covid.
VitaminC4Covid is a team of vitamin C experts, including Dr Marcela Vizcaychipi from the faculty of Medicine at London’s Imperial College and Associate Professor Anitra Carr, who heads the Nutrition in Medicine group the University of Otago, where they have been monitoring all Covid-related studies on vitamin C. The studies show that Covid patients have depleted vitamin C levels, often to the level found in scurvy, and need substantial doses to recover and survive.
Dr Vizcaychipi, who heads research in intensive care medicine at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, has given Covid and non-Covid patients up to 6 grams of vitamin C intravenously in their Intensive Care Units. The dosage is dependent on the severity of the disease and the amount needed to correct the deficiency, as indicated by vitamin C urine sticks (when available).
‘Vitamin C is certainly one of the multiple factors that contribute to better outcomes and speed of recovery. It should be standard practice. We have not had any safety issues at all.’ says Dr Vizcaychipi, who heads research in intensive care medicine at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital.
What the review of 12 clinical trials shows is that ‘intravenous vitamin C may improve oxygenation parameters, reduce inflammatory markers, decrease days in the hospital and reduce mortality, particularly in the more severely ill patients.’
What is remarkable about vitamin C is that it is both an antioxidant (meaning it protects oxygen supply), an anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory, so it is an impressive three-in-one defender. Not one adverse event has been reported in any published vitamin C clinical trials in Covid patients. Also, the review shows that high doses of vitamin C tablets upon infection may keep people out of the hospital by increasing their recovery rate.
According to Carr: ‘Oral doses of 8 grams per day have been shown to increase the rate of recovery from symptomatic infection by 70%. For more critically ill patients, trials using doses of 6–24g a day intravenously have shown positive benefits in terms of increased survival, and reduced hospital stays, improved oxygenation or reduced inflammation.’
Twenty oranges provide one gram of vitamin C, so these kinds of levels require supplementation. The review includes several studies showing that patients with severe respiratory infections have depleted vitamin C status, with the prevalence of deficiency increasing with the severity of the condition.
In one study, vitamin C levels predicted who would or wouldn’t survive. Plasma concentrations of vitamin C were deficient in 70–80% of Covid patients. What is clear is that several grams, not just a glass of orange juice, are needed to correct vitamin C deficiency. Dr Vizcaychipi has used inexpensive vitamin C urine sticks to check if enough is being given to reload vital vitamin C stores.
The VitaminC4covid team, founded by nutrition expert Patrick Holford, has been calling on government advisors to properly review the evidence for vitamin C to inform the public and medical profession for over a year.
NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Evidence) set up the RAPID C-19 oversight group precisely to find potential treatments as fast as possible. Yet, a NICE spokesperson confirmed that neither NICE nor RAPID C-19 had undertaken a review of vitamin C for COVID-19 since September 2020, when these trials were initiated and noted by RAPID C-19.
To make matters worse, a Freedom of Information request revealed that RAPID C-19 told Public Health England, which oversees the nation’s health education for disease prevention, specifically not to review vitamin C [or D] to avoid duplication of effort.
So, to date, no government agency has reviewed the evidence from a growing number of well-designed clinical trials. Although these MPs were recently told by Jo Churchill, the Parliamentary under-secretary of State for Primary Care and Health Promotion, that ‘we do not believe that there is sufficient evidence at this stage to conclude that vitamin C is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19′.
How does she form such a belief when no review has been carried out? A UK trial set up in June 2020, called REMAP-CAP, has not even started due, they say, to ‘lack of vitamin C’. There is no shortage.
‘There seems to be a double standard’, says Holford. ‘The promise of evidence-based medicine to those advocating non-drug treatments such as vitamins was effective to come up with the evidence, and we’ll treat it like any other medicine. The evidence is now undeniable, so why aren’t people being told to take high dose vitamin C upon infection and all hospitals checking vitamin C status with urine sticks as a routine measure and acting accordingly? Vitamin C is safe, inexpensive, available and now proven to work.’