Despite promising news on the vaccine front, we don’t yet have a miracle cure for COVID-19. Emphasis on the yet, as scientists are plugging away at potentially promising research. For example: a recent study by plant biologists at North Carolina State University found that chemical compounds in foods or beverages like green tea, muscadine grapes, and dark chocolate may be able to inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In a post in Science Daily, study author De-Yu Xie explains that the tasty compounds inhibit enzymes called proteases, which are key to the health of cells and viruses. Once those proteases are inhibited, it’s only a matter of time until the cell performance starts to deteriorate. In other words, chemical compounds found in everyday food items could potentially inhibit how the coronavirus attaches to or multiplies within human cells, thus weakening and eventually killing the virus.
Here’s how the study worked. First, the researchers performed both computer simulations and lab studies showing how the “main protease” (Mpro) in the SARS-CoV-2 virus reacted when confronted with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant chemical compounds. The chemical compounds from green tea, two varieties of muscadine grapes, cacao powder, and dark chocolate were all able to bind to different parts of that main protease. “Mpro has a portion that is like a ‘pocket’ that was ‘filled’ by the chemical compounds,” Xie said. “When this pocket was filled, the protease lost its important function.”
The results may not be particularly surprising, especially since the health benefits of green tea and dark chocolate have been touted for years. “Plants use these compounds to protect themselves, so it is not surprising that plant leaves and skins contain these beneficial compounds,” Xie said. But take heed, dear reader: while the study results are promising, they’re not necessarily conclusive enough for you to start sucking down hundreds of muscadine grapes. Regardless, we’ll take any excuse to increase our dark chocolate consumption.