Many people take high doses of Vitamin C in the belief that it can ward off the flu Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Can intake of vitamin C, lemon juice and zinc lozenges help strengthen one’s immunity and keep viral infections like Covid 19 at bay?

Doctors say these supplements act like placebos, not really having any impact on our immune system.

Dr Vikram Sarbhai, specialist pulmonologist at the RAK Hospital, explained why such things are at best a psychological line of defence.

NAT Dr Vikram Sarbhai-1583239191279
Dr Vikram Sarbhai

“Every day, we are subjected to millions of viruses, bacteria and microbes and we are not even aware of this as our immune system with its own response is able to ward them off. But when the human race is exposed to a new type or ‘novel’ virus where the body has no prior learning or experience of reacting to it, the response of the immune system is ‘naïve’. The response is offensive and so severe that the body releases a battery of systemic inflammatory, anti-histamine defences that sometimes human beings are unable to handle. None of the practices of having ginger, lemon or vitamin C can actually help our immune system. This is just a myth,” said Dr Sarbhai.

He said: “Our bodies are designed in such a manner that there is no way we can ‘tutor’ our immunity in defence of a viral infection. The truth is human beings with their set of co-morbidities, age and pre-existing conditons are programmed to respond to diseases and while some succumb to infection, others don’t. There are no rules or boundaries. We have genetic susceptibility based on the genes we inherit from our parents and then these further refine in certain permutations and combinations.”

Dr Sarbhai added that despite Covid 19 being so virulent infecting such a large population, it had only a two per cent mortality rate. “This means only two in 100 individuals are likely to have a fatal response. We see this kind of response to other virus and bacteria too, be it Dengue fever, SARS, MERS or influenza. Each culture has its own set of dietary rules and beliefs about immune strengthening. Some talk of the benefits of herbs, strictly vegetarian food and coconut oil (to ward off viruses), but there is no empirical evidence to prove this.”

Dr Sarbhai said, “Once a patient comes down with Covid 19, while it is important to isolate the patient and help him recover, what is more important is to focus on the community and make sure others who may have been exposed do not come down with the infection. All other cultural beliefs and practices are at best placebos.”