Lettuce fight the pandemic with chewing gum
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Lettuce fight the pandemic with chewing gum

With the COVID-19 pandemic stubbornly hanging on and reinventing itself every few months, staying healthy and out of the hospital is more important than ever.

Vaccines are the key to fighting this pandemic. A healthy diet and lifestyle helps, as well – it’s not a substitute for being vaccinated, but being healthy gives you a better chance to stave off some diseases, and fight back against others.

A healthy diet revolves around at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. More and more, we’re told to consider them central, not peripheral, to our meals.  

The spotlight normally falls on fruit and vegetables with natural superpowers – popularly called super foods – like antioxidants (strawberries, blueberries and spinach, for example) and high-fibre commodities such as carrots, beets and broccoli.

Poor cousins like lettuce are left on the sidelines. In fact, some call lettuce a negative calorie food, meaning you burn more energy ingesting it than it contains.

That’s not hard to believe. After all, lettuce is about 95 per cent water. So besides helping keep you hydrated and being a good Vitamin K source, lettuce is seldom regaled for its health benefits.

But thanks to science, and COVID, lettuce’s days as an also-ran could be over.

Medical News Today reports that researchers in Philadelphia, led by Penn Dental Medicine, have created a hi-tech chewing gum with ground-up, supercharged, lab-grown lettuce that may actually neutralize the COVID-19 virus in saliva.

Here’s how it works. We know that COVID-19 replicates in the salivary glands. It’s transmitted through droplets and aerosols produced when a person with the virus talks, breathes or sings. That’s why we use masks and physical distancing to reduce exposure.

The researchers figured that disrupting replication in the salivary glands was key. And you can’t get much closer to salivary glands than you can with chewing gum…in this case, gum containing a virus-disrupting protein. It came from lettuce that had been infused with the protein as the plant grew, then ground up and put in the gum.

Once, this was a nearly impossible technique. But it’s becoming more accessible all the time, thanks to pioneering research at agriculture-intensive institutions like the University of Guelph,  staffed by people who know how plants grow. There, lab work has been taking place for years to create plants that cheaply and effectively create desirable biomaterials.

As Medical News Today reported, the dental part of this puzzle stems from the Philadelphia researchers’quest to create chewing gum infused with plant-grown proteins that disrupt dental plaque. When they applied their knowledge of the anti-COVID technology with chewing gum,the virus in the oral cavity was neutralized.

In fact, those who chewed it had levels of the virus their saliva fall to almost undetectable levels.

So, lettuce fight the pandemic with chewing gum. You’re a winner after all.

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