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Can B Vitamins Help Fight Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Written by Mathew Eng, PharmD | Last updated:
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Mathew Eng, PharmD | Last updated:

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Vitamin B Coronavirus

There are many forms of vitamin B, all of which have essential functions in the body. There’s some evidence that B vitamins may even boost the immune system, but do they have any effect on the new coronavirus?

This article is for informational purposes only. The current coronavirus outbreak is an ongoing event and certain details may change as new information comes to light.

Do B Vitamins Have a Role in the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The various B vitamins play many important roles in the body, including several key effects in the immune system. This has led some researchers to evaluate their impact on infections [1, 2].

However, there is currently no evidence that B vitamins can treat or prevent the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Previous research has shown that the different B vitamins may stimulate the immune system and help protect against certain infections, but the evidence has mostly been inconclusive [1, 2, 3].

Overall, the best preventive measures you can take against COVID-19 are basic standard precautions, including social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding touching your face.

Research has yet to identify any compounds (including B vitamins) that can effectively treat or prevent the new coronavirus, but B vitamins do play a role in the health of the immune system.

Why Your Immune System Needs B Vitamins

There are many types of vitamin B, which all have unique functions in the body. Some of the B vitamins that may have important effects on the immune system include:

Research suggests that B vitamins affect the immune system in several ways, such as:

  • Increasing the number of T cells [2]
  • Promoting the activity of macrophages, a type of white blood cell [3]
  • Activating antimicrobial peptides [6]
  • Helping the immune system recognize bacteria [11]
  • Maintaining the effectiveness of natural killer cells [10]
B vitamins may have beneficial effects on the immune system, primarily by helping components of the immune response identify and eliminate harmful intruders.

Research on B Vitamins & Infections

Research on B vitamins and their effect on infections is limited, but there are a few studies that may give us some insight.

For example, a study looking at almost 2,500 Indian children found that the group with the lowest vitamin B9 levels had a 44% higher incidence of lower respiratory tract infections [8].

According to another study of 51 critically ill patients, supplementation with vitamin B6 can significantly boost T cell numbers, potentially improving the immune response [2].

Animal and cell studies also suggest that vitamin B3 and vitamin B5 may enhance antibacterial activity [4, 3, 6].

One interesting study found that vitamin B2 and UV light can inactivate MERS-CoV (a different type of coronavirus) in blood donor products. In this case, however, vitamin B2 is used to help sensitize the virus to UV light, which is not applicable to infections in the body [12].

Also, not all studies support the benefits of B vitamins. One mouse study shows that vitamin B3 treatment may lead to low oxygen levels in those that are on ventilators [5].

B vitamins may boost the immune system and help fight certain infections.

Dosage

The various B vitamins all have different recommended dosages. Most people get enough B vitamins from their diet, but deficiencies can occur.

Below are the daily recommended intakes for some of the B vitamins mentioned in this article. Note that requirements can differ depending on age and pregnancy status.

Takeaway

Certain B vitamins may boost the immune system, but there is currently no evidence that they can help with the new coronavirus.

Until more research is done, the best preventive measures you can take against COVID-19 are social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding touching your face.

Learn More

For more information on health benefits, precautions, food sources, and supplements, check out our individual articles on each B vitamin.

For more information on the new coronavirus, check out these articles.

About the Author

Mathew Eng

Mathew Eng

PharmD
Mathew received his PharmD from the University of Hawaii and an undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Washington.
Mathew is a licensed pharmacist with clinical experience in oncology, infectious disease, and diabetes management. He has a passion for personalized patient care and believes that education is essential to living a healthy life. His goal is to motivate individuals to find ways to manage their chronic conditions.

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