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This article was published on December 1, 2020

A North Carolina scientist says chocolate, tea fight COVID-19

A North Carolina scientist says chocolate, tea fight COVID-19

Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here.

Hola pandemic pals,
Let’s dive right in. I was researching for this newsletter this morning when I came across this glorious headline from WRAL TechWire:
Eager to get schooled, I read the article then did some research on the professor making the recommendations.Dr. Deyu Xie, a plant microbiology expert from North Carolina State University, certainly appears to be the real deal. But it’s hard for me to swallow his assertion that “green tea, grapes and cacao (chocolate) have active compounds with anti-SARS-Cov-2 enzyme activity.”Actually, let me rephrase: I believe him, I just don’t think it matters.

After all, isn’t the global scientific community currently involved in the biggest race for a vaccine in human history? It stands to reason that if consuming grapes, green tea, and chocolate could prevent COVID-19 we wouldn’t just now be hearing about it.

Also, there’s this quote from the article:

“I am struggling to find a doctor who would like to collaborate with us to perform clinical trials and provide green tea and muscadine extracts to test their therapeutic efficacy to treat COVID-19.” 

For those who aren’t intimate with the the general geography of the Carolinas, it’s about a 30 minute drive from NCSU to UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, so the problem isn’t in finding a doctor (UNC has one of the most prestigious medical schools in the US), it’s in finding one who cares to spend their time on this specific research.

So, here’s the thing: I still can’t debunk this story. Even if I spent the rest of my day tracking down leads and interviewing experts such as Dr. Xie themselves, I’d still get nowhere fast.

There’s likely plenty of science to back up the idea that specific “enzyme activity” can be detrimental to the novel coronavirus. And there’s also likely no reason to believe Xie’s proposed diet would have a large enough impact on individual viral loads to change much.

That doesn’t mean this research isn’t important. Understanding how our diets can affect our immune systems is paramount if we’re ever going to get ahead of Mother Nature.

I just means that there is no COVID-19 homerun. We’re not going to find a magic cure hiding in the snack section of the supermarket no matter how much the Hershey’s and Arizona Tea companies would love to find out they’ve been selling a delicious natural vaccine the whole time.

The real vaccines are on the way, but they don’t prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thus the truth remains unchanged: diets, vaccines, and prayers only work if they’re combined with stringent social-distancing and mask-wearing policies and rigid adherence to self-quarantine for those who may have been exposed.

By the numbers

Totals as of 12/1
Source: Worldometers
  • USA: Cases: 13,988,557 Deaths: 275,299
  • India: Cases: 9,484,506 Deaths: 137,933
  • Brazil: Cases: 6,344,345Deaths: 173,229

Tweet of the week

What to read

Superhuman antibodies, digging up millions of murdered minks, and the Netherlands makes masks even more mandatory…
? As if things weren’t bad enough, here’s how terrorist hackers could trick researchers into making deadly viruses. (Neural)
? Baja California gets in on phase three testing, set to receive 1,000 vaccine doses within weeks. (KYMA)
? Here’s how all the different vaccines work. (CNN)
? Watch: Healthcare professionals brace for a COVID-19 surge after the holidays. (CBS News)
? Masks are now mandatory indoors in the Netherlands. (BBC)
The Red Cross says fake news about vaccines has become a 2nd pandemic. (CNN)
? The US government’s plan to distribute the vaccine is a “clusterfuck,” which is pretty much exactly what you expect from the GOP and Trump. (Vanity Fair)
? FFS. Denmark is now planning to dig up the minks it recently “culled,” which is a fancy word for slaughtered. (Wall Street Journal)


In this little section, we’d like to discuss the tech that’s getting us through the pandemic.

My obsession with TTRPGs last week lead me down a long and interesting rabbit hole that lead straight to “LA By Night,” a Vampire: The Masquerade campaign on Geek and Sundry.

When the original V:tM was released way back in 1991, I honestly thought it would end up being the next big Hollywood vampire franchise. The game world and its lore are exceptional, compelling, and very well-suited for a Marvel Universe-style conglomerate of films and TV shows.

Unfortunately, RPGs weren’t as popular through the late 1990s and the 2000s as they have been since Stranger Things brought Dungeons and Dragons back into the pop culture spotlight again a few years back.

And that means we spent decades with nothing but the RPG books, an old PC game called Bloodlines, and an underrated TV show that never got the chance to truly shine.

Things are changing though. It’s the Zoom era and RPGs are more popular than ever. The second biggest shock of the modern era is that, not only are we getting a sequel to Bloodlines, but it’s a highly-anticipated AAA title.

That’s something I don’t think anyone who played the original saw coming decades later. But the bigger shock, by far, is LA By Night’s success.

Unlike Kindred: the Embrace, LA By Night isn’t a traditional TV show. It’s actually just the equivalent of a Zoom conference call with a bunch of people dressed up like vampires sitting at a table playing V:tM (rolling the dice and everything).

The format was popularized by the Dungeons and Dragons-based campaign “Critical Role,” a series that cast voice actors as the players and dungeon master.

But, I’m actually not a big fan of games that involve a bunch of people using fake, loud, over-the-top vaguely UK-ish accents to portray fantasy creatures, so it’s hard for me to watch.

LA By Night, so far, is much more palatable — in fact, I’ll just say it: It’s the best vampire TV show I’ve ever watched. Give it an hour and see if you don’t get hooked too.

Well, bye

The pandemic isn’t over and we’re all in this together.

The good news is that doing your part is easy peasy lemon squeezy:

1. Wear a mask.
2. Stay 2-3 meters away from others in public spaces.
3. Support government officials who take the pandemic seriously. 


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