By Laura Beil
Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
It also helps to have celebrity enthusiasts. When President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, his pill arsenal included Vitamin D and zinc. And in an Instagram chat with actress Jennifer Garner in September, infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci touted vitamins C and D as ways that might generally boost the immune system. "If you're deficient in vitamin D," he noted, "that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection. I would not mind recommending, and I do it myself, taking vitamin D supplements."
But whether over-the-counter supplements can actually prevent, or even treat, COVID-19, is not clear. Since the disease is so new, researchers haven't had much time for the kind of large experiments that provide the best answers. Instead, scientists have mostly relied on fresh takes on old data. Some studies have looked at outcomes of patients who routinely take certain supplements — and found some promising hints. But so far there's little data from the kinds of scientifically rigorous experiments that give doctors confidence when recommending supplements.
Here's what we know today about three supplements getting plenty of attention around COVID-19.
What it is: Called "the sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied supplements (SN: 1/27/19). Certain foods, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.
Why it might help: Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.
How it works for other infections: In 2017, the British Medical Journal published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement might help prevent respiratory infections, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.
But one key word here is deficient. That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that's higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).
"If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference," says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.
And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.
What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19: Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.
In May, in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, Lanham-New and her colleagues published a summary of existing evidence and concluded that there's only enough to recommend vitamin D to help with COVID-19 prevention for people who are deficient. That paper made inferences from how vitamin D works against other respiratory tract infections and immune health.
More than a dozen studies are now testing vitamin D directly for prevention and treatment, including a large one led by JoAnn Manson, a leading expert on vitamin D. An epidemiologist and preventive medicine physician at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. That study will analyze if vitamin D can affect the course of a COVID-19 infection. The trial aims to recruit 2,700 people across the United States with newly diagnosed infections, along with their close household contacts.
The goal is to determine whether newly diagnosed people given high doses of vitamin D — 3,200 IU per day — are less likely than people who get a placebo to experience severe symptoms and need hospitalization. "The biological plausibility for a benefit in COVID is compelling," she says, given the nutrient's theoretical ability to impede the severe inflammatory reaction that can follow coronavirus infection. "However the evidence is not conclusive at this time."
What it is: Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.
Why it might help: It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.
How it works for other infections: Studies of using zinc for colds — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in BMJ Open did not find any value for zinc lozenges for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.
What we know about zinc and COVID-19: The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that hydroxychloroquine can't prevent or treat COVID-19 (SN: 8/2/20).)
In July, researchers from Aachen University in Germany wrote in Frontiers of Immunology that current evidence "strongly suggests great benefits of zinc supplementation" based on looking at similar infections including SARS, another disease caused by a coronavirus. For example, studies suggest that giving zinc reduces the risk for death from a pneumonia infection. The researchers cite evidence that zinc might help prevent the virus from entering the body, and help slow the virus's replication when it does.
Another review — also based on indirect evidence — published August 1 in Advances in Integrative Medicine also concluded that zinc might be helpful in people who are deficient.
In September, researchers from Hospital Del Marin Barcelona reported that among 249 patients studied, those who survived COVID had higher zinc levels in their plasma (an average of 63.1 mcg/dl) than those who died (43mcg/dl).
Overall, though, the jury is still out, says Suma Thomas, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, who in June led a team that reviewed the evidence for popular supplements in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. Given what's already known, zinc could possibly decrease the duration of infection but not the severity of symptoms, she said, particularly among people who are deficient. About a dozen studies are now looking at zinc for COVID treatment, often with other drugs or supplements.
Thomas and her colleagues are comparing symptom severity and future hospitalization in COVID-19 patients who take zinc with and without high doses of vitamin C with those who receive ordinary care without the supplement. Results are expected soon, she says.
What it is: Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It's found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.
Why it might help: It's a potent antioxidant that's important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.
How it works for other infections: Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the Journal of Medical Virology, looked at what is already known about vitamin C and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, "suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions."
But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies didn't support the idea that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, "it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial."
What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas' study at the Cleveland Clinic.
In a review published online in July in Nutrition, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the vitamin may help prevent infection and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.
Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There's still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful, the pair concluded in July in Drugs in Context. "It's not really clear if it's going to benefit patients," Badowski says.
And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: "Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart."
This story was originally published by Science News, a nonprofit independent news organization.
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A good backup generator can help you keep your home running smoothly, even in the event of a major power outage. And, when you choose a solar generator, you can power your home using clean, renewable energy from the sun. By contrast, gas and diesel generators burn fossil fuels, and are extremely loud and spew harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Here are the best solar power generators available today that can provide a cleaner alternative for home generators.
Our Picks for the Top Solar Generators
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Renogy Lycan Powerbox
- Best All-Purpose - Goal Zero Yeti 6000X
- Best for Camping - Jackery Explorer 1000
- Most Affordable - Westinghouse iGen600s
- Fastest Charging- EcoFlow DELTA
- Best for Appliances - MAXOAK Bluetti AC200P
- Most Powerful - Point Zero Energy Titan
How We Reviewed the Best Solar Generators
There are a number of factors we considered when choosing which solar power generators to recommend, including:
- Battery capacity. Battery storage capacity is an important ranking factor. A greater battery capacity means the generator can store more energy, which ultimately means it will last longer without requiring a recharge. This is measured in watt-hours (Wh).
- Power output. When your generator is up and running, it will put out a certain amount of energy, measured in watts. It's important to select a generator that offers enough watts for you to power your essential home appliances.
- Inverter rating. The inverter is a critical part of any backup power generator. Basically, this is the component that turns solar energy into AC (alternating current) electricity. Inverter rating, along with battery capacity, determine how much power you can get from your home backup generator.
- Expandability. In order for your backup generator to function, you'll need some way of charging it. And if you plan to rely on solar energy, that means using solar panels. Expandability means that you can add solar panels to your generator as needed, making it easier to absorb more sunlight for energy.
- Number of outlets. How many devices or appliances do you need to charge? The functionality of your backup generator will be determined by how many outlets or ports are available.
- Price. Of course, as you look for the best home backup generator, one of the most crucial considerations of all is your budget. We've sought to emphasize generators that offer maximum value.
Based on these criteria, we've determined the solar backup generators that offer the most consumer value.Check out our complete list of recommendations below. You can also read our complete review of the best solar energy companies for rooftop home solar systems.
The Best Solar Energy Generators
Best Overall: Renogy Lycan Powerbox
Renogy produces several different power stations and chargers, but we especially like the Lycan Powerbox, a solar power solution that's only a little bit bigger than a suitcase. It comes with an easy-grip handle and heavy-duty wheels, making it one of the most portable solar generators around while still offering 1200W of output, which is enough power for most electronic devices and some appliances.
Why buy: The Lycan Powerbox can provide 1075 watt-hours of continuous power without the noise or fumes associated with gas generators. It offers great portability and includes an LCD display and easy, intuitive controls that allow you to switch between DC power and AC power as needed, as well USB ports and 12 volt car charger ports.
Best All-Purpose: Goal Zero Yeti 6000X
The Yeti 6000X is actually a portable power station that can be used for off-grid camping or powering an RV. With 6,000 watt-hours and two 2000W AC charger ports, it will give you plenty of power for your home. With a home integration kit, it's easy to use the Goal Zero Yeti 6000X to power essential circuits.
Why buy: Though it isn't exactly cheap, the Yeti 6000X power station is a great all-purpose backup generator, including a top-of-the-line charge controller and two robust AC outlets that make it easy for you to keep your household essentials up and running. It can even power a full-size refrigerator or microwave.
Best for Camping: Jackery Explorer 1000
The Jackery Explorer 1000 portable power station is one of the best all-around options, equally suited for outdoor activities and for emergency power readiness. Though it's rated for 1,000 watts, it can actually get closer to 2,000. The lithium battery pack offers a capacity of 1,200 watt-hours, and Jackery's professional MPPT technology makes it easy to get your unit fully charged in a relatively short span of time (usually just eight hours if you have two panels going).
Why buy: Jackery is one of the leading names in outdoor equipment and in clean energy products. This portable power station is a great pick for campers and can also be a very effective home backup power solution for small appliances and electronics thanks to its pure sine wave inverter AC outlets.
Most Affordable: Westinghouse iGen600s
Westinghouse Outdoor Power
Westinghouse is another company that specializes in solar powered generators, most of which are more ideally suited for camping trips. Their iGen600s portable generator, however, offers a wattage of up to 1,200 peak watts, which can certainly function as a decent emergency backup for certain household appliances and small devices.
Why buy: For a portable yet still very versatile solar generator, Westinghouse is a company to keep on your list. The iGen600 power system can run a mini fridge for up to 42 hours or a CPAP machine for up to 46 hours thanks to its lithium-ion battery that offers 592 Watt-hours of energy and a long battery life.
Fastest Charging: EcoFlow DELTA
The EcoFlow DELTA power station is a wonderfully rugged, dependable backup generator that can help meet your power needs during a blackout. For one thing, the charging time is incredible; you can potentially go from zero to 80 percent in under an hour with a wall outlet. Should you ever find yourself facing a power outage, this is an emergency energy solution you'll be really thankful for.
Why buy: The DELTA station from EcoFlow offers a lot of value and usability; in particular, it has one of the fastest recharging times of any solar generator, which may be reason enough for you to choose it over the competitors. The DELTA unit offers 13 ports, meaning it's compatible with pretty much any device or appliance you could ever need to charge.
Best for Appliances: MAXOAK Bluetti AC200P
For a heavy-duty emergency power solution, look no further than to MAXOAK, and particularly to a product called the Bluetti AC200P. With a 2000 Watt-hour capacity, this is one of the most robust solar generators you'll find anywhere.
Why buy: MAXOAK's Bluetti AC200P is the one you're going to want for really heavy-duty home energy backup. With massive AC inverters that offer up to 4800W surge capacity, it can provide more than enough power to fuel all your most critical home appliances, even some HVAC units. Also note the two-year warranty, a generous consumer protection.
Most Powerful: Point Zero Energy Titan Solar Generator
Point Zero Energy is one of the foremost names in disaster preparedness, and when you take a look at their product specs, you'll see why. Their Titan model solar generator offers almost twice the storage of similarly priced units with a high-capacity 2,000-watt-hour battery capacity and 3,000 watt high-efficiency inverter.
Why buy: On a purely technical level, this is the beefiest generator on our list, though of course, it's also one of the priciest. The unit is made with high-efficiency components, meaning it doesn't waste a lot of energy running the system; instead, it just supplies you with plenty of functional electricity when you need it the most.
How Does a Solar Generator Work?
Solar generators capture energy from the sun using photovoltaic solar panels, and store it in a built-in battery. Note that in order to absorb the sun's energy, your portable generator will need solar panels. These are typically sold separately, or as a package with the unit, so you'll need to factor in this additional cost. Solar panels contain solar cells, which are typically made of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicone that acts as a semiconductor.
Once the sun's energy is stored in the battery, it is converted into AC energy. This happens via a component known as an inverter. AC power is required for most of your household appliances, as well as for charging devices like your phone, laptop, or tablet that normally require a wall charger or AC outlet.
Can a Solar Generator Power My Whole House?
Generally speaking, a rechargeable solar generator won't be able to power your entire house if you lose power. With that said, even a smaller generator can be used to power key devices or appliances, sometimes for days at a time depending on its power consumption. For instance, you can keep your refrigerator up and running, and/or ensure plenty of sustained use for medical devices, like CPAP machines.
With an especially robust generator, you may also be able to connect to core circuits, running multiple appliances at one time.
So, while having an emergency power supply from a solar generator may not mean that you can go about your life just like you would normally, you can at least keep the lights on at home, run your air conditioner, or ensure your perishable food items remain fresh until your electricity comes back on.
What are the Benefits of a Solar Generator?
There are a number of advantages you can anticipate from an emergency generator, especially when you choose to go solar. Consider:
You can minimize the disruption of a power outage.
Again, inclement weather can cause power outages that last for hours, sometimes even days. During that time, you can use a backup generator to keep your essential appliances and devices up and running. This level of preparedness can offer ample peace of mind.
Solar generators offer a clean alternative to other energy sources.
Most generators are powered by fossil fuels, which means they emit a lot of noxious emissions. If you want a clean power source and a minimal environmental footprint, these solar solutions are just the ticket. They are also much quieter than traditional gas or diesel generators.
They can be very cost-effective in the long run.
While the initial purchase price of a solar generator may seem steep, keep in mind that sunlight is free. You don't have to worry about buying fuel or any additional expenses associated with your solar unit.
Find the Solar Generator That's Best for You
Disaster preparedness begins by identifying a reliable power source, and if you want that power source to be clean and renewable, solar generators are ideal. Take a moment to explore the options and find the generator that's right for you.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
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