Hyderabad: Indians have spent Rs. 15 000 crore on immunity boosters, vitamins and supplements during the Covid 19 pandemic yet patients whose condition was severe and critical had no use of these products.
Immune boosters is a broad term and is used for a variety of components and extracts from plants, powdered supplements and juices that are used in those who have a diagnosed deficiency.
There were recommendations on public platforms, which led to high consumption of zinc, B-complex, vitamin D and other so-called immune building products.
All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) data of 2020 and 2021 before and during the first and second wave shows that vitamin D capsules purchased over the counter were valued at Rs. 33.7 crore. B-complex and others saw a 600 per cent rise in sales.
AIOCD members across the country have reported no stocks within 10 days of renewals as the demand was at an all-time high during the first and second wave.
Dr A.N. Malleshwari, head of the department of nutrition and dietetics at Gleneagle Global Hospitals, said, “In our experience in treating Covid-19 patients at the hospital level, it was noted that some immune boosters contained too much zinc, which increased the levels in the body with regular meals. Too much of these unverified minerals and protein supplements have led to accumulation of fats and heavy metals in the body causing other health issues.”
Those who are immune-compromised with diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, undergoing treatment for cancers and other long term-illness are prescribed supplements and immunity boosters for the deficiency in their body.
While these are identified cases there are many not aware of the underlying conditions. Nutritionist Ali Mohammed said, “Those who have availed of B-complex, vitamin D and zinc supplements with guidance from experts have benefited. It was noticed on those who were treated at home, pro-inflammatory cytokines, improving respiratory functions and preventing hypercoagulation were possible with the help of B and D vitamins."
Zinc supplements have to be taken after advice from doctors and nutritionists as it plays an important role in differentiating immature T cells and preserving the balance between killer T cells and helper T cells.
Zinc is available in foods like poultry, shellfish, chickpeas, lentils, beans, melon seeds, cashews, peanuts, almonds, cheese, milk, eggs and whole grains. Recommended dietary allowance of zinc is up to 30 to 80 RDA and if these foods are a part of our diet, excess supplements are not required.
Experts state that immunity boosters are for those who have undergone surgery, trauma, suffering from a debilitating disease or on regular medication for an illness which requires regular follow-ups. For healthy individuals, natural foods build the best immunity.
Experts advise against hoarding, stocking and buying of immunity boosters without advice as most of the vitamins are excreted out of the body while fats and heavy metals lead to other health issues.