Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) Dr. Fazıl Küçük Medicine Faculty academic staff member and Medical Biochemistry Specialist Asst. Prof. Dr. Ergül Mutlu Altundağ released a statement on the role of food-based polyphenols in viral diseases. Asst. Prof. Dr. Altundağ’s statement reads as follows:
“As we all know, the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection is continuously spreading around the world and more scientific research is required in this special area. Despite the increasing number of publications, an effective treatment approach has not yet been licensed. A limited number of these studies are investigating the effectiveness of polyphenols directly against coronaviruses.
What are Polyphenols?
Polyphenols are the largest class of bioactive compounds found naturally in plant-based food such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, tea, dark chocolate, cocoa, wine, and have different protective effects. There are over 500 polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables. Nature magazine has published a list of the top 100 polyphenol-rich foods that can help improve health. Among the top 10 polyphenol foods are cocoa powder, dried mint, dried thyme, flax seeds and black blueberries.
So, What do Polyphenols do in Viral Diseases?
The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticancer activities of polyphenols are familiar to us. Besides, its potential antiviral activity has also been the subject of recent research. In addition to kaempferol, quercetin, curcumin, epicatechin-gallate, oleuropein, the active ingredient of olive leaf, can be given as examples of polyphenols.
Numerous studies in the literature have revealed the efficacy of polyphenols on other viruses that cause respiratory tract-associated infections, including Epstein-Barr virus, enterovirus, herpes simplex virus (HSV) and influenza virus. Studies have shown that polyphenols prevent viral replication by inhibiting the COVID-19 main protease (Mpro), which is required for viral replication, and also inhibit various pro-inflammatory cytokines, helping to reverse the deadly cytokine storm that occurs in severe COVID-19 cases.
“Consume Plant-Based Foods”
Therefore, eating a predominantly plant-based diet rich in a variety of fruit and vegetables will support our polyphenols intake. More research is still needed on the daily polyphenols requirement. Taking it as a supplement in large doses may cause some side effects. Supplements high in polyphenols can interfere with iron absorption and affect thyroid function. Therefore, it would be more beneficial to consume plant-based foods that contain high levels of health-protective polyphenols instead of taking large doses of food supplements.