A message circulating on mobile phones and social networks says that one of the first Chinese doctors to warn of the danger of the new coronavirus, Li Wenliang, discovered that coffee could be beneficial against the pathogen that would end his life soon after.

But there is no evidence that this drink, or any other, protects the body against COVID-19. Nor that Li investigated such a thing. The WhatsApp chain that started this rumour, and which supposedly reproduces the text of a CNN report, claims that coffee contains beneficial substances such as methylxanthine, theobromine and theophylline.

These elements, supposedly present in every cup of coffee, “stimulate compounds that can prevent these viruses -coronaviruses- in humans with at least an average immune system. And so, he adds, it is starting to be used as a remedy against COVID-19 in China.

Coffee does not contain theophylline or theobromine, which are psychostimulants belonging to the methylxanthine group. Nor have these alkaloids been shown to help prevent the coronavirus. The only methylxanthine that can be found in a cup of coffee is caffeine; theobromine is found in cocoa and theophylline is found in tea.

In addition, there is no scientific evidence to indicate that any of these substances are effective in preventing or curing coronavirus, only that they are known to be central nervous system stimulants.

In fact, another study conducted in 2005 concluded that methylxanthines are not effective for the treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains that there is still no treatment for COVID-19 and that no food protects us from it, nor are there drinks such as tea or wine or foods such as garlic, which have also been said to be effective against the coronavirus.

Finally, it does not seem true that Li Wenliang has raised this hypothesis and that CNN has echoed it. When looking at CNN’s website, its social networks and generic search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing there is no trace of any publication containing the Chinese doctor’s alleged research.


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