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Covid-19: death rate is 0.66% and increases with age, study estimates

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 01 April 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1327

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Re: Covid-19: death rate is 0.66% and increases with age, study estimates

Dear Editor,

Professor David Richardson is quite correct to emphasise the importance of nutrition as a means of treating and even curing infections caused by Covid-19 (1).

However, the implication is that this can be achieved by complying with the current official guidelines and recommendations devised by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) and actively promoted by Public Health England (PHE).

Unfortunately, we have no evidence to demonstrate that this would be successful. On the other hand, we do have results from Dr David Brownstein in the USA who has successfully used nutrition to treat patients suffering from Covid-19. In his blog on 9th April, he reports that he has treated 85 patients (subsequently increased to over 100) (2). There have been no deaths and no hospitalisations.

Essentially, he has used comparatively high amounts of Vitamins A, C and D as well as iodine. The protocol used has been summarised in this blog, published in January 2020 (3).
Table 1 shows the actual values used and compares them with the corresponding official recommendations for the UK.

Table 1. Comparison of doses used by Dr Brownstein with the official UK recommendations.

Vitamin A

Dr Brownstein (3)
Not ill 1,500 mcg/day
First sign of illness 30,000 mcg/day for 4 days

Male 700 mcg/day
Female 600 mcg/day
Maximum 1,500 mcg/day

Vitamin C

Dr Brownstein
Not ill 3,000-5,000 mg/day
First sign of illness 1,000 mg per hour for a period until diarrhoea develops, then limit intake for a period.
Intravenous up to 75,000 mg/day

Adults 40 mg/day

Vitamin D

Dr Brownstein
1,250 mcg/day for 4 days

Adults 10 mcg/day


Dr Brownstein
Not ill 25 mg/day
First sign of illness 50-100 mg/day

Adults 0.14 mg/day

Strictly speaking, these values are not directly comparable. The SACN values are for routine maintenance and if taken as recommended would be expected to meet the requirements of the body.

Nevertheless, it is clear from these comparisons that supplying these nutrients at the intakes recommended would be totally inadequate to treat Covid-19 effectively. The work of Dr Brownstein strongly indicates that those suffering from the disease have severe deficiencies of Vitamins A, C and D as well as of iodine. It seems likely that by overcoming these nutritional issues, the body develops/recovers the ability to deal with the virus.

The success of Dr Brownstein is highly significant because it provides an explanation of why people are susceptible to Covid-19. More importantly, the protocol is not difficult to apply and indicates a way forward for the authorities.

There is no question that the approach is successful. The results are comparable with what could be achieved by a vaccine but have the huge advantage that they could be introduced without any delay.

Secretary of State for Health, please note!


Competing interests: No competing interests

21 April 2020
J. Verner Wheelock
Retired. Formerly Special Professor in Food Science, University of Nottingham
Glusburn, West Yorkshire