Can your daily açaí habit protect you from COVID-19?
Açaí berries, a superfood endemic to the Brazilian rainforests, is well known for its numerous health benefits, including its inherent anti-inflammatory properties. Recent studies now show that the Açaí berry’s ability to act as an inflammation inhibitor could potentially prevent the severe inflammatory response that COVID-19 has been known to cause.
Inflammation and COVID-19
It’s important to understand how our bodies normally react to injury or infection. Normally, the immune system will react with an immediate inflammatory response to limit infection and help our body develop a long-lasting, protective immunity within 7-10 days following exposure to a viral load.
But when inflammation is not managed, it turns into hyperinflammation or becomes chronic. This results in the inhibition of adaptive immune responses, tissue damage or organ failure, a devastating effect we’ve seen in many cases of COVID-19 infections.
While 90 percent of individuals who will get infected with COVID-19 will be asymptomatic or show minor symptoms, and will ultimately recover from the virus, a small group will exhibit critical symptoms that will require urgent intervention and treatment. For this group, the most serious consequences of their infection is a severe overreaction of their immune system—prompting a sepsis-like cytokine storm that causes blood clots as well as lung and heart complications that could potentially be fatal.
“Quite simply, the group of patients who experience the more severe COVID-19 symptoms do so because their immune system goes on overdrive. Cytokines can be a powerful and useful immune response. It can help stop viruses from reproducing and bring other immune cells to fight infections. But there are instances when they go overboard—what we refer to as a cytokine storm. And this will cause real damage if it’s not controlled,” explains Dr. Sonny Viloria, Integrative Medicine Specialist and Wellness Expert.
The Natural Inflammation Inhibitor
Now, Toronto scientists Michael Farkouh and Ana Andreazza, who have been studying the inflammatory response of the Açaí berry for the past five years are looking into how it can be useful against this ongoing pandemic.
"It's a long shot," Farkouh told AFP. "But açaí berries are cheap and easily accessible for everyone, as well as safe, so it was worth trying."
For their study involving 580 subjects who have tested positive for the virus, half were given doses of açaí extract while the remaining half were given placebos.
“The researchers believe that açaí extract specifically targets the same NLRP3 pathway as COVID-19, which triggers the body’s inflammatory response,” explains Dr. Viloria.
In theory, early intervention using açaí could prevent or minimize the inflammation caused by the virus before the body goes on overdrive to fight off the infection, thus preventing the possibility of hospitalization or even death.
Results of the 30-day study are expected to be released at the end of 2020. Until then, keep taking your daily açaí dose, advises Dr. Viloria.
“While the research shows promise, remember that Açaí offers a lot of immune boosting benefits and is a natural source of antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients—which is essential to keeping yourself in top health amid this pandemic. Just be sure to choose a trusted brand who’s known for their stringent production process and ability to preserve all the benefits of this superfood,” he ends.