As each day passes in our new reality, we are hearing more nutrition and health claims that are not based on scientific evidence on social media. Sometimes these come from our well-meaning friends and others seeking to profit from the misinformation.
Below are some that we have seen online. If you see others, please email [email protected] for them to be verified and added to the list.
Please do not share information that you see online that does not originate from a reputable source, such as the CDC or WHO. You will see many posts that claim a doctor or hospital released this information, but unless it is an official response or press statement please have a very skeptical approach to the information and search out evidence for the claim from more trustworthy sources.
Avoid These Claims!
Garlic is part of the Allium genus that includes scallions, leeks, chives, onions, and hundreds of others. Garlic is widely used in dishes for its seasoning properties.
The claim states that garlic can help you avoid infections. Garlic is indeed widely consumed in supplement form for this and other health claims. Unfortunately, there is no strong or clear evidence that this is true. There have been several review and meta-analyses articles that support this conclusion.
During the AIDS epidemic there were individuals and even government authorities that wrongly promoted the use of garlic, lemon juice, and beetroots as being treatment options that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
While plant viruses cannot infect humans, garlic plants are inundated with viruses. If it had antiviral properties, probably it would first cure itself from these viruses.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is often toted as being the key remedy for curing sickness or preventing sickness. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient, meaning it must be supplied in the diet; in the human body, it is an antioxidant, is required in normal immune functions, has a role in certain enzyme functions, and repairs tissue.
However, there is no evidence that vitamin C can prevent a cold in the general population, there is limited evidence that it may slightly shorten the duration of a cold, but not its severity. Consuming vitamin C after the onset of cold symptoms appears to not be beneficial for the duration or severity.
Vitamin C is needed for normal immune responses mechanisms against pathogens and it has been found that low plasma levels of vitamin C can lead to more infections, especially in the upper respiratory tract that is seen in the common cold and influenza. With that said, if you have a varied diet with many fruits (oranges, grapefruit, kiwifruit, strawberries) and vegetables (potatoes, broccoli, red pepper, Brussel sprouts, ) you probably have normal levels of vitamin C in your body to be able to have a normal immune response to pathogens without the need for any supplementation.
There is no clear evidence that taking mega-doses of vitamin C will cure the coronavirus.
While excess vitamin C in the body is often not harmful as it is expelled in your urine excessive amounts can cause side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea or kidney stones.
Miracle Mineral Solution
While some claims will do minimum harm to those that decide to believe in them, drinking a mix of Sodium Chloride Solution and Citric acid (lemon or lime juice typically) is dangerous. What is created from this mixture is a chlorine dioxide solution, or in more simple words, bleach! Drinking this would be the same if someone decided to drink bleach from the store.
There are no antimicrobial, antiviral or antibacterial properties that will occur in the body, but instead it may cause vomiting, diarrhea, life threatening blood pressure due to dehydration, and acute liver failure. Now is not the time (or ever) to overburden the hospital systems.
This claim encourages people to drink water every 15 minutes to keep your throat and mouth moist to protect you from infections by washing any viruses down to the stomach where they will be killed in the hydrochloric acid.
While it is important to avoid dehydration, drinking water every 15 minutes will not protect you from the coronavirus, as even a few viral particles can cause an infection and it is unlikely that you can catch every single one of these with water. Further, viruses can also enter through your nose and eyes.
Another issue with this claim, is that the most common route that is believed to be the transmission of this virus is through breathing in particles after someone who is infected sneezes or coughs. This could occur when you breathe in the particles from someone next to you that sneezes or being in a place that someone coughed in hours ago. So, even if you manage to wash some down to your stomach you probably still have particles in your respiratory tract.
Additionally, your stomach acid may not be strong enough to destroy the particles as there are more reports coming out daily that the virus is infecting the digestive tract and can be found “live” (viruses are not living things, here we mean “capable or causing infections in other people”) in the stools of people after their respiratory tract is healed. The first confirmed case SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus causing COVID-19 disease) in the United States had a loose stool on day 2 of their hospital stay that tested positive with the virus along with the respiratory specimens collected from the patient.
Ice Cream and other Cold Products
Recently, a man in Florida, United Sates, attacked an ice cream truck driver in his fear that the coronavirus would spread to the children in his neighborhood. It is unclear of his ultimate reasoning for the assault, but many people do believe that ice cream and other cold products, like milkshakes, can carry the coronavirus or make you more susceptible to the virus. There is no evidence that ice cream or cold products carry or make you susceptible to the virus.
UNICEF had to release a statement pleading with creators of this falsehood to stop spreading this idea.
Colloidal silver is tiny particles of silver suspended in liquid. Silver is not an essential nutrient that must be consumed in the diet in order for the human body to function, unlike zinc or iron. Consuming this product is dangerous as it can lead to serious health consequences, such as kidney damage, seizures, and argyria.
Argyria is when you have a blue-gray hyperpigmentation of your skin. Unfortunately, this condition was considered a relic of the past as silver was removed from oral medications, but with the resurgence of colloidal silver consumption in alternative medicine it must be considered when diagnosing blue-gray skin.
Using it as a long-term nutritional supplement can lead to myeloid leukemia.
Conclusion and General Advice
No single diet can protect you against the coronavirus. No single food source can protect you against the coronavirus. No single nutrient can protect you against the coronavirus. Please be advised to stay away from diet and food recommendations hoping to convert a crisis into opportunity.
If you are a generally healthy person, you can most likely keep doing what you have been doing. Because times of pandemics are not the time to experiment with radically new diets and foods. Moreover, the diets usually recommended on televisions and on the Internet with the subtext of “one-size-fits-all diet” cannot make you healthier without taking into consideration your specific condition, general health, your lifestyle, etc. into consideration.
The main principle of a healthy and balanced diet is to obtain the six classes of nutrients (water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins) that your body needs to function as balanced as possible. As long as you can obtain the levels your body needs daily and manage to avoid vastly excessive calories while doing so, we can say that you are in the right direction in terms of nutrition. You do not need to do anything special or extra during pandemics, unless you healthcare professional instructs you to do otherwise.
And if you are not eating healthy and balanced during normal times, maybe you can try to experiment by adding some more vegetables (most individuals do not eat enough vegetables) to your diet while you are staying at home or try a new recipe as cooking at home is much healthier than eating out. But this does not mean to hope for miracles from a single nutrient or a food source. It needs to be scientific and proper like we mentioned above.
As long as you follow these general guidelines, avoid false nutrition and health claims, implement the hygiene precautions (wash your hands!), and obey the physical distancing requirements, we can say you are doing good in this pandemic!
References & Further Reading
- A. Ströhle, et al. (2009). Vitamin C And İmmune Function. Medizinische Monatsschrift Fur Pharmazeuten, p: 49-54; quiz 55-56. | Archive Link
- D. Jafari, et al. (2019). Vitamin C And The İmmune System.
- RM. Douglas, et al. (2007). Vitamin C For Preventing And Treating The Common Cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, p: CD000980. | Archive Link
- Y. Keung, et al. (2020). Acute Myeloid Leukemia With Complex Cytogenetic Abnormalities Associated With Long-Term Use Of Oral Colloidal Silver As Nutritional Supplement Â Case Report And Review Of Literature. Journal of Oncology Pharmacy Practice, p: 212-215. | Archive Link
- ALS. Chang, et al. (2006). A Case Of Argyria After Colloidal Silver İngestion. Journal of Cutaneous Pathology, p: 809-811. | Archive Link
- J.Gu, et al. (2020). Covid-19: Gastrointestinal Manifestations And Potential Fecal-Oral Transmission. Gastroenterology, p: S001650852030281X. | Archive Link
- MG. Allan, et al. (2014). Prevention And Treatment Of The Common Cold: Making Sense Of The Evidence. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, p: 190-199. | Archive Link
- J. Klukáčková, et al. (2007). Natural İnfection Of Garlic (Allium Sativum L.) By Viruses İn The Czech Republic. Journal of Plant Diseases and Protection, p: 97-100. | Archive Link
- E. Lissiman, et al. (2014). Garlic For The Common Cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, p: CD006206. | Archive Link
- P. Chigwedere, et al. (2008). Estimating The Lost Benefits Of Antiretroviral Drug Use İn South Africa:. JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, p: 410-415. | Archive Link
- C. Bateman. (2007). Paying The Price For Aids Denialism. South African Medical Journal = Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif Vir Geneeskunde, p: 912-914. | Archive Link
- FDA. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) Frequently Asked Questions. (18 Mart 2020). Access Date: 21 Mart 2020. Reference URL: FDA | Archive Link
- O. Hitchcock. (2020). Amid Coronavirus Fears, Boca-Area Man Assaults Ice Cream Truck Driver.
- UNICEF. Statement By Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Unicef Deputy Executive Director For Partnerships, On Coronavirus Misinformation. (6 Mart 2020). Access Date: 21 Mart 2020. Reference URL: Unicef | Archive Link
- Z. Gorvett. A Rumour About Covid-19 Has Been Spreading Â That Drinking Water Regularly And Keeping Your Mouth Moist Can Protect You. Here Bbc Future Examines The Evidence.. (20 Mart 2020). Access Date: 21 Mart 2020. Reference URL: BBC | Archive Link
- FDA. Fda Warns Consumers About The Dangerous And Potentially Life Threatening Side Effects Of Miracle Mineral Solution. (12 Ağustos 2019). Access Date: 21 Mart 2020. Reference URL: FDA | Archive Link