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NIH hasn’t recommended supplements as new COVID-19 strategy

September 17, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: The NIH now recommends vitamin C, vitamin D3 and zinc for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The National Institutes of Health does not currently recommend, or advise against, those supplements for fighting COVID-19.

THE FACTS: An erroneous headline and widely shared tweet on Thursday falsely stated that the NIH had endorsed the use of a trio of supplements to prevent and treat COVID-19. It hasn’t.

“NIH Now Includes Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc as Recommended in the Prevention or Treatment of COVID,” a headline on the website the Gateway Pundit declared, before it was later changed to assert the agency was “still looking into” the supplements.

That same claim was relayed in a tweet, reshared more than 16,000 times, by a weight loss doctor who told his followers that the “NIH now recommends Vitamin C, D3 and Zinc for prevention and treatment of Covid-19.’

“The rest of us who have recommended it for the past 18 months don’t even want an apology,” Dr. Brian Lenzkes added.

But the NIH has not issued such a recommendation, Dr. H. Clifford Lane, clinical director at the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a phone interview.

Lane noted that the NIH’s COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines regarding those supplements were last updated in April. Clifford is one of three co-chairs of a panel that oversees those guidelines.

The guidelines say that for all three supplements, there is insufficient evidence to advise for—or against—using them to treat COVID-19.

“As new information becomes available, we review it,” Lane said. “I’m not aware of any new information being available that might lead us to change that recommendation.”

The NIH has not issued a recommendation that the supplements be used for COVID-19 prevention, either.

In a subsequent tweet that gained a small fraction of the engagement of his original post, Lenzkes said the article where he gathered that information had been “retracted” and his followers should “consider it fake news regarding NIH until further notice.” In a later tweet, he said the article had been “reposted and says that they are actively considering adding them to official treatment plan.”

A representative for Lenzkes told The Associated Press in an email that he did not have time to respond to an inquiry asking which article he was citing.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.