Hyderabad: India's fight against COVID-19 is likely to continue and the nationwide lockdown will probably be extended as the novel Corona virus has spread across the country. Health experts have suggested that we should learn to live with COVID-19 for the next few months. Amidst this, a message about the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of spices has been doing the rounds of social media platforms.
The message claims that the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood can be enhanced by eating fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs that have high ORAC values. They help prevent cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses while at the same time they also boost immunity, it states, adding spices with high ORAC values are "more than any vaccine".
The message suggests that ORAC-rich spices may help boost immunity and fight the COVID-19 pandemic. In the future our survival will depend on our immunity, it says, and lists out a number of spices and their ORAC values.
According to the message, the ORAC value of clove is 314,446, cinnamon's value is 267,537 ORAC, turmeric 102,700, cocoa 80,933, cumin 76,800, parsley 74,349, tulsi 67,553, thyme 27,426, and ginger has a value of 28,811 ORAC. Extracts of ginger, tulsi, and turmeric have at least 10 times higher ORAC values.
The message is being shared on Twitter and Facebook.
What is ORAC and how does it help boost our immunity?
ORAC stands for oxygen radical absorbance capacity, a lab technique used to quantify the total antioxidant capacity of a food. Free radicals or oxidants are molecules that have an unpaired electron and can cause damage to the DNA. The less free radical damage there is, the higher the antioxidant capacity of the food, and therefore higher the ORAC score.
Scientists and researchers working on ORAC and antioxidants have said that the body can effectively use 3,000-5,000 antioxidants or ORAC units per day. Any more than this (i.e. with mega-dosing in supplement form) will have no added benefit and "excess" is most likely excreted by the kidneys.
Whilst there is no "official" daily recommended intake of ORAC units, various researchers have suggested an optimal intake of 3,000-5,000 ORAC units per day. The USDA has suggested intake of 5,000 ORAC units per day while the UK's FSA and the FDA have recommended "5 a day" of fruit and vegetable servings, which give an approximate ORAC score of 3,500.
The ORAC values of spices presented in the viral message are taken from a research paper titled "USDA database for the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of selected foods" published on the USDA website.
We also found another article on foods rich in antioxidants and cross-verified the ORAC values. Only the value of turmeric was an exact match and all the other spices had higher ORAC value.
Even though these foods are rich in antioxidants, which boost immunity in general, there is not sufficient research to prove that they boost immunity against COVID -19. Scientists are still researching various probabilities on the effect of antioxidants to boost immunity against COVID-19.
Currently, trials are underway to test if antioxidant supplements might help COVID-19 patients recover. However, the trial is just one of the hundreds looking into potential treatments for the Corona virus.
Despite decades of research, not a single placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed study on humans has ever shown that high doses of antioxidants can "boost" the immune system, treat or prevent viral infections in humans.
Though it is true that the spices mentioned in the viral message have high ORAC values and are rich in antioxidants that boost immunity to a certain extent, there is not enough proof to show that they can help fight COVID-19. Research is going on and this claim will take a long time to prove. Therefore, the claim is PARTLY TRUE.