Britons are flocking to buy vitamin C as supplement firm says sales have TRIPLED in a week amid claims the nutrient can protect against coronavirus
- Supplement firm Healthspan revealed sales have tripled in the past week alone
- Vitamin C has long been touted as a remedy for the common cold and flu
- It is now being trialled in China on 120 patients, with results expected in months
- A New York state doctor said patients given vitamin C recovered better
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Brits are flocking to buy vitamin C supplements in a desperate bid to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
Companies selling the supplements say they’ve seen soaring demand for the vitamins, which have long been touted as an immune system booster.
Healthspan, based in the UK, revealed its sales had tripled in the past week alone, while high street retailer Superdrug has seen a ‘significant rise’ in sales.
Social media has been flooded with posts encouraging others to take vitamin C, sometimes exceeding recommended amounts at dangerous levels.
Doctors in New York and China are trialling the effects of extremely high doses of the vitamin but the amounts produced in supplements cannot treat any illness.
People should not take large amounts of vitamin C because it can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, cramps and headache.
Supplement suppliers say they’ve seen a spike in demand of vitamin C sales after claims the nutrient can treat coronavirus (stock image)
Vitamin C is a naturally occurring nutrient which helps the body to grow properly and maintain good health.
Most people get enough of it from their diet – it comes in foods including oranges, red peppers and broccoli, for example – but it is a popular supplement because of its reputation as an immune system booster.
It does have a role in the immune system, but a balanced diet containing a wide range of vitamins is essential for the body to fight off infections.
As the COVID-19 disease develops across the UK, people are increasingly looking for ways to protect themselves.
Superdrug said in a statement: ‘We’ve seen a significant sales increase for immune defence vitamins, which include Vitamin C.
‘We do currently have vitamins in stock however we are continually monitoring availability and are working closely with suppliers to do our best to meet current demand.’
Rob Hobson, Healthspan’s head of nutrition said: ‘Over the last week we have seen sales of vitamin C products triple.’
Coronavirus aside, vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that protects the body against the effects of harmful agents.
Vitamin C supplements are available in many forms, but there is little scientific evidence that any one form is better absorbed or more effective than another.
Chinese doctors are trialling its use against COVID-19 in 120 patients at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University for several reasons.
They write that early clinical studies have shown that vitamin C can prevent inflammation, which is feared to play a role in the deterioration of COVID-19 patients.
In addition, vitamin C can help to eliminate fluid on the lungs, the team claim.
Vitamins can effectively shorten the duration of the common cold, and may even prevent it in extreme conditions, according to the scientists. Studies show that for adults who take vitamin C regularly, their cold will be shortened. But using vitamin C supplements after cold symptoms start does not appear to be helpful.
A few studies have shown that vitamin C deficiency – when a person does not have enough in their body – is related to the increased risk and severity of influenza infections.
Overall there study conclusions are different which is why more research needs to be done before vitamin C can even be considered an aid to treat coronavirus.
The news that Chinese doctors are conducting a trial of vitamin C in the fight against coronavirus is likely to have driven sales.
Scientists at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, in the city where coronavirus first emerged, are testing its effects on 120 patients who have the virus.
They will be given daily infusions of 24g of vitamin C for seven days – a dose which is around 60 times that recommended by the NHS.
The NHS recommends healthy adults consume 40mg of the vitamin daily, while the National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends 75mg for women and 90mg for men.
The study is expected to be completed at the end of September, according to information on the US National Library of Medicine’s website, so the results have not yet been published.
The regime prompted doctors in New York state to give vitamin C a try on their own critically ill COVID-19 patients.
Dr Andrew Weber, a Long Island based pulmonologist and critical-care specialist with Northwell Health, shared that he has been immediately giving his intensive-care patients 1,500 milligrams of intravenous vitamin C – again, far higher than the recommended amount.
Those patients are then re-administered the doses of the powerful antioxidant three or four times a day, the doctor explained to the New York Post.
‘The patients who received vitamin C did significantly better than those who did not get vitamin C,’ Dr Weber said.
‘It helps a tremendous amount, but it is not highlighted because it’s not a sexy drug.’
Jason Molinet, a spokesman for Northwell, said that Vitamin C is being ‘widely used’ as a coronavirus treatment throughout the NY health system.
Doctors’ encouraging comments left social media users hailing supplements as a prevention tool against the coronavirus.
One user said he had been taking 3,000 to 4,000mg every day for two weeks, far higher than the 2,000mg limit set by the NIH.
Taking too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps.
Dr Mike Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, says that despite ongoing research, we won’t know vitamin C’s value against the novel coronavirus for some time – either to prevent or treat it.
What’s more, the dose being tested is ‘massive’ and far greater than what would be consumed at a normal level.
Social media has been flooded with posts encouraging others to take vitamin C, sometimes exceeding recommended amounts (pictured)
The British Dietetic Society busted the myth that supplements will be able to prevent you catching coronavirus – but many have rushed to buy it
The British Dietetic Society busted the myth that supplements will be able to prevent you catching coronavirus.
It says: ‘Simply put, you cannot “boost” your immune system through diet, and no specific food or supplement will prevent you catching COVID-19/Coronavirus.’
But as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Healthspan’s Rob Hobson said interest in vitamins have increased across the board.
‘Sales of vitamin D have risen two fold over the last two weeks and are continuing to rise as are the Healthspan Multivitality 70 plus multivitamins – which may be the result of our most vulnerable groups looking for ways to optimise their health during lock-down,’ he said.
‘Diet should always come first but supplements do have a role to play when this is compromised in any way.’
Mr Hobson believes Vitamin D sales have risen because the public are being urged to stay indoors. The nutrient is boosted with exposure to sunshine.
Pharma Nord, which manufactures and supplies pharmaceutical quality dietary supplements, said the company is trying to cope with a sharp rise in demand and enquiries.
Bent Henriksen, managing director of Pharma Nord UK, said: ‘We know from talking to pharmacies and health food stores that they are dealing with a huge wave of enquiries about these kind of product.
‘Our telephone and technical support teams have been kept extremely busy answering questions from concerned customers.
‘We can see that it is tough out there for a lot of people so we are trying to do our best to play our part in helping people through this.
‘Our team has been working exceptionally hard to ensure that supplies of our products get to where they are needed.’
It follows supermarkets and pharmacies being wiped of over-the-counter medications amid the coronavirus crisis.
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