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Do vitamins help you fight COVID-19?
So far, the research is mixed.
- A lot of hype surrounds vitamins and minerals for treating or preventing COVID-19, though little evidence exists.
- Vitamins C and D and zinc may help boost the body's response to the coronavirus, but likely only if you're deficient.
- Dozens of studies are currently investigating the potential use of these supplements on COVID-19 patients.
Misinformation is rampant in regards to the novel coronavirus. In certain regards, this makes sense: it's novel. There's much to learn about treatments, immunity, and potential vaccines. While the virus seems overwhelming now, every pandemic has the same disorienting effect on the population.
Earlier this year, a cottage industry immediately emerged around supposed cures and interventions. Osteopath Joseph Mercola, who's built a vitamin empire while spouting numerous false claims, has touted at least 22 vitamins and supplements on his website that prevent and even cure COVID-19. Vitamin salesman David Wolfe peddles coated silver as a way to prevent coronavirus through "immunity."
A strong immune system is important, during a pandemic and otherwise. The reality of immune-system building isn't sexy or highly marketable, but it is effective: eat a diet of balanced macronutrients low in processed foods and sugars; sleep seven to nine hours a night; hydrate regularly; move your body regularly; try not to stress out, and if you do, counter it with yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises.
The modern wellness industry cannot scale on basic science, however. And so we must endure false promises at every turn.
While lifestyle habits often lead to poor immune functioning, plenty of people suffer from genetic immunodeficiencies. As it turns out, this cohort could benefit from vitamins and minerals, especially if they're deficient. A recent report investigates the efficacy of three popular supplements and their effects on COVID-19. For those lacking in vitamins C and D and zinc, a little boost could help.
Can vitamin D help fight COVID-19?
Evidence for adding more of these vitamins on top of a balanced diet (and barring any deficiencies) is thin, however. Humans have long held a fascination with the idea that more is better. In the case of essential vitamins, it's all about balance.
A number of pro-vitamin D articles have been bouncing around social media. The argument: quarantining humans results in them not getting enough sunlight, which compromises their vitamin D levels. These opinion pieces are generally arguing against shutdowns, using this heavily-studied supplement as a wedge.
Vitamin D certainly helps your immune system. Deficiencies are linked to increased risk and severity of viral infections: "Interventional and observational epidemiological studies provide evidence that vitamin D deficiency may confer increased risk of influenza and respiratory tract infection." One study has linked vitamin D deficiency to difficulties fending off COVID-19.
If your body produces enough vitamin D, however, you don't need more. As Susan Lanham-New at the University of Surrey in England, says "If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference." Since too much of this vitamin has a negative impact, you want to keep your levels around 600-800 IU per day. Spending 10 to 30 minutes outside a day, a few days a week, is enough to satisfy requirements. Fish (such as salmon, trout, and swordfish) and fortified milk products also help you reach these levels.
Thus far, studies have shown that people deficient in vitamin D could use a boost. There are currently over a dozen studies testing high-doses of vitamin D in newly infected volunteers. As no results have been published, the verdict is still out.
Photo: Right 3 / Adobe Stock
Zinc has also been making the rounds, especially in conjunction with other treatments. If you regularly consume oysters, red meat, poultry, or beans, your body is likely sated. Taking zinc while you have a cold seems to help out (provided you take it at the onset of the illness). Zinc lozenges don't fare as well.
Zinc was on everyone's mind as an additive to hydroxychloroquine. While the latter treatment didn't live up to the hype, zinc supplementation bestows immune benefits based on SARS research (which is also a coronavirus). At the moment, it appears that zinc reduces the duration of COVID-19, though not the severity of symptoms. Loading up isn't the best idea, as too much zinc could cause nausea, vomiting, stomach problems, and if taken for an extended duration, lower immunity. But if you start to feel sick, zinc might not be a bad idea.
Linus Pauling famously—some would say infamously—touted the benefits of vitamin C. The two-time Nobel Prize winner went a bit overboard with his passion for this vitamin. That said, due to his work, vitamin C is now extensively studied (and sometimes overused).
The popular antioxidant provides an immune boost and reduced inflammation, both important when you're battling a virus. While you can take supplements, plenty of fruits and vegetables contain what you need.
Experts warn that studies on vitamin C produce contradictory results. As an inexpensive intervention, upping your levels when you have a cold can't really hurt. A dozen or so studies are currently looking at the possibility of using vitamin C to treat COVID patients. As with the previous supplements, too much vitamin C produces unwanted side effects. In the coming months, researchers will have a clearer idea of its potential role in COVID-19 treatment.
Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His new book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.
- A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
- Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
- The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to go ice fishing on Europa<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="GLGsRX7e" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4790eb8f0515e036b24c4195299df28"> <div id="botr_GLGsRX7e_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/GLGsRX7e-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Water Vapor Above Europa’s Surface Deteced for First Time<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9c4abc8473e1b89170cc8941beeb1f2d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WQ-E1lnSOzc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.
- Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
- Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
- In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.
The newly discovered galaxies are 62x bigger than the Milky Way.
- Two recently discovered radio galaxies are among the largest objects in the cosmos.
- The discovery implies that radio galaxies are more common than previously thought.
- The discovery was made while creating a radio map of the sky with a small part of a new radio array.