Modest effects of dietary supplements during the COVID-19 pandemic: insights from 445 850 users of the COVID-19 Symptom Study app

Louca P, Murray B, Klaser K, Graham MS, Mazidi M, Leeming ER, Thompson E, Bowyer R, Drew DA, Nguyen LH, Merino J, Gomez M, Mompeo O, Costeira R, Sudre CH, Gibson R, Steves CJ, Wolf J, Franks PW, Ourselin S, Chan AT, Berry SE, Valdes AM, Calder PC, Spector TD, Menni C

BMJ Nutr Prev Health 4 (1) 149-157 [2021-06-00; online 2021-04-19]

Dietary supplements may ameliorate SARS-CoV-2 infection, although scientific evidence to support such a role is lacking. We investigated whether users of the COVID-19 Symptom Study app who regularly took dietary supplements were less likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection. App-based community survey. 445 850 subscribers of an app that was launched to enable self-reported information related to SARS-CoV-2 infection for use in the general population in the UK (n=372 720), the USA (n=45 757) and Sweden (n=27 373). Self-reported regular dietary supplement usage (constant use during previous 3 months) in the first waves of the pandemic up to 31 July 2020. SARS-CoV-2 infection confirmed by viral RNA reverse transcriptase PCR test or serology test before 31 July 2020. In 372 720 UK participants (175 652 supplement users and 197 068 non-users), those taking probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, multivitamins or vitamin D had a lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection by 14% (95% CI (8% to 19%)), 12% (95% CI (8% to 16%)), 13% (95% CI (10% to 16%)) and 9% (95% CI (6% to 12%)), respectively, after adjusting for potential confounders. No effect was observed for those taking vitamin C, zinc or garlic supplements. On stratification by sex, age and body mass index (BMI), the protective associations in individuals taking probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, multivitamins and vitamin D were observed in females across all ages and BMI groups, but were not seen in men. The same overall pattern of association was observed in both the US and Swedish cohorts. In women, we observed a modest but significant association between use of probiotics, omega-3 fatty acid, multivitamin or vitamin D supplements and lower risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. We found no clear benefits for men nor any effect of vitamin C, garlic or zinc. Randomised controlled trials are required to confirm these observational findings before any therapeutic recommendations can be made.

Category: Public Health

Type: Journal article

PubMed 34308122

DOI 10.1136/bmjnph-2021-000250

Crossref 10.1136/bmjnph-2021-000250

pii: bmjnph-2021-000250
pmc: PMC8061565
ZOE COVID Study website (providing information on raw data and data visualisations)
Supplementary Information (includes information on relevant survey questions, summary statistics and flowcharts about the study)


Publications 7.1.2