As New York’s hospitals become overrun with coronavirus patients, the race to find a successful treatment is on. So far, no vaccine or treatment has been proven effective for Covid-19, but there have been several promising candidates which are now under review.
One treatment being trialed by New York health officials is something millions are already taking every morning—vitamin C.
Critically-ill coronavirus patients in Northwell Health facilities on Long Island are immediately given a 1,500 milligram dose of vitamin C three to four times each day. That’s 16 times the recommended dosage, but experimental treatments in China show it could help fight the virus.
According to critical care specialist Dr. Andrew G. Weber, adding vitamin C to the list of potentially effective coronavirus treatments makes sense. When coronavirus patients overreact to the infection, vitamin C levels drop significantly.
It makes all the sense in the world to try and maintain this level of vitamin C. It helps a tremendous amount, but it is not highlighted because it’s not a sexy drug.
Weber’s approach hasn’t been as well publicized as other treatments like anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine but could be essential in the fight against coronavirus.
Vitamin C isn’t the only simple thing that could save large swaths of the population from coronavirus. Research shows that a healthy lifestyle significantly reduces a person’s risk of being hospitalized for coronavirus.
Urban air pollution also appears to play a part in coronavirus deaths and could be part of the reason that cities are at risk of higher death rates. The SARS outbreak in 2003 showed that individuals living in a location with higher levels of air pollution were twice as likely to die if infected than those living with less pollution.
The same is true of smoking—initial data suggest that smokers are more likely to end up in the hospital with Covid-19 than non-smokers.
A study of 173 critically ill coronavirus patients showed that 16.9% were smokers and 5.2% had been smokers previously. Of those that needed ventilation, intensive care or died, 25.5% were smokers.
Another emerging trend among those who become severely ill is obesity. Britain’s NHS says 63% of its hospitalized coronavirus patients are overweight or obese. Nearly 40% of the cases occurred in people under the age of 60. Only 9% of the patients had underlying conditions like heart or lung disease.
Part of the reason overweight people are more likely to suffer is because their immune systems are typically in worse shape than those of a healthy weight. That’s because their diet is often lacking in fiber and antioxidants and in part because their immune system is working overtime to fend off inflammation caused by their unhealthy weight.
As the world marches deeper into this pandemic, it might seem surprising more attention isn’t on a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps that’s because it’s too little, too late. With the virus knocking on America’s door, there isn’t much time to quit smoking and lose weight.
It could also be, as Dr. Weber pointed out, that healthy lifestyle choices aren’t the ‘sexy’ cure everyone is looking for. President Trump is keen to point to an anti-malaria drug over vitamin C or a healthy diet because that’s what America would prefer to hear.
In 2013, data showed that exercise was a more effective treatment for stroke than medication. But that has made little headway in swaying Americans away from popping a pill.
As coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., more data regarding the correlation between lifestyle and the severity of the virus will become available. That could lead to an unavoidable look at natural ways to slow the death rate among coronavirus patients.
Last modified: June 24, 2020 1:03 AM UTC