As another pandemic made its way around the world, so did a lot of misinformation about how people can protect themselves. Predictably, nutritional supplements and other products claim they can give immune systems a quick and easy “boost” to ward off this coronavirus and the resulting disease, COVID-19. But can something in a bottle, whether a vitamin formulation or probiotic, really rev up your immune system to help you stay healthy? 

"Unfortunately, the reality is that those kinds of products aren't really offering you any benefit," says Michael Starnbach, a professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School. "There's no evidence that they help in fighting disease." The very idea of boosting the immune system is flawed. "If there were a wholesale boost to the immune system, it could trigger autoimmunity and other problems," he says. Your money might be better spent on something else. 

Vitamins can help ward off disease and other health problems, but only in people who are severely malnourished, something that's not true of the average American adult. So, vitamin formulations will do little to help you stay healthy if you are healthy already.