5 persistent myths about coronavirus and why they are untrue

Have you ever heard that taking vitamin D supplements or following a ketogenic (keto) diet will protect you from the new coronavirus? In this Special Feature, we explain why these and other persistent myths are not grounded in science.

Some coronavirus claims keep making an appearance, but most are not grounded in scientific fact.

Even before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new coronavirus outbreak a “pandemic,” their director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned of the danger associated with spreading false information about the virus.

At a conference on February 15, 2020, he declared that “we’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.”

“Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus and is just as dangerous,” he emphasized.

Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.

However, it can be difficult to tell what is credible and what is not given the sheer quantity of information that people are sharing both on and offline.

Previously on Medical News Today, we compiled a list of 28 myths surrounding the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). In this Special Feature, we will take an in-depth look at five more persistent myths and explain why people should not take them at face value.

5 persistent myths about coronavirus and why they are untrueWritten by Maria Cohut Ph.D. on June 5, 2020 — Fact checked by Jasmin CollierHave you ever heard that taking vitamin D supplements or following a ketogenic (keto) diet will protect you from the new coronavirus? In this Special Feature, we explain why these and other persistent myths are not grounded in science.Some coronavirus claims keep making an appearance, but most are not grounded in scientific fact.Even before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new coronavirus outbreak a “pandemic,” their director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned of the danger associated with spreading false information about the virus.At a conference on February 15, 2020, he declared that “we’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.”“Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus and is just as dangerous,” he emphasized.Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.However, it can be difficult to tell what is credible and what is not given the sheer quantity of information that people are sharing both on and offline.Previously on Medical News Today, we compiled a list of 28 myths surrounding the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). In this Special Feature, we will take an in-depth look at five more persistent myths and explain why people should not take them at face value.Myth 1: Vitamin D prevents infectionSome articles claim that if a person takes vitamin D supplements, they will be less likely to contract SARS-CoV-2.In part, people have based these claims on a controversial paper that appears in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research.The paper’s authors claim to have found a correlation between low mean levels of vitamin D in the populations of certain countries and higher rates of COVID-19 cases and related deaths in those same countries.Based on this correlation, the authors hypothesize that supplementing the diet with vitamin D may help protect against COVID-19. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this would actually be the case.In a rapid review of the evidence published on May 1, 2020, researchers from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom unequivocally conclude: “We found no clinical evidence on vitamin D in [the prevention or treatment of] COVID-19.”They also write that “[t]here was no evidence related to vitamin D deficiency predisposing to COVID-19, nor were there studies of supplementation for preventing or treating COVID-19.”Other researchers who have conducted reviews of the existing data surrounding a potential relationship between vitamin D and COVID-19 agree.One report by specialists from various institutions in the U.K., Ireland, Belgium, and the United States — which appeared in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health in May 2020 — also points to a lack of supporting evidence in favor of taking vitamin D supplements to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2.The report’s authors warn that:“[C]alls [for high dose vitamin D supplementation as a preventive strategy against COVID-19] are without support from pertinent studies in humans at this time, but rather based on speculations about presumed mechanisms.”They also note that although sufficient vitamin D can contribute to overall good health on a day-to-day basis, taking supplements without first seeking medical advice can be harmful.For example, taking too much vitamin D in the form of a dietary supplement could actually jeopardize health, especially among people with certain underlying chronic conditions.Myth 2: Zinc stops the virus in its tracksAnother widespread rumor is that taking zinc supplements could help prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 or treat COVID-19.It is true that zinc is an essential mineral that helps support the functioning of the human immune system.Starting from this notion, a team of researchers from Russia, Germany, and Greece hypothesized that zinc might be able to act as a preventive and adjuvant therapeutic for COVID-19. Their results appear in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine.The researchers refer to in vitro experiments that apparently showed that zinc ions were able to inhibit the action of a certain enzyme that facilitates the viral activity of SARS-CoV-2.However, they also point out the lack of actual clinical evidence that zinc might have an effect against SARS-CoV-2 in humans.Other papers that cite the potential of zinc as an adjuvant in COVID-19 therapy — including one that appears in Medical Hypotheses — are more speculative and not based on any clinical data.In a “Practice patterns and guidelines” paper from April 2020 — which appears in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health — nutritionist Emma Derbyshire, Ph.D., and biochemist Joanne Delange, Ph.D., reviewed existing data about zinc (alongside other nutrients) in relation to viral respiratory infections.They found that, according to available research in humans, zinc supplementation may help prevent pneumonia in young children, and that zinc insufficiency may impair immune responses in older adults.However, they note that there is not enough evidence about the role of zinc supplementation in preventing viral infections in general.

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