The effects of virgin coconut oil among suspect and probable cases
Over a year into this pandemic and the world is nowhere near the end of this virulent virus despite the emergence of vaccines and medications.
COVID-19 can produce an excessive immune reaction in the infected individual. The overproduction of immune cells is known as cytokine storm. The surge of activated compound known as cytokines causes lung inflammation and fluid buildup, which leads to respiratory distress.
“With the worsening global economic situation, the ability of countries to pay for the treatment and management of the virus will be a challenge, hence a need to explore possibilities for its prevention and control,” said Dr. Imelda Angeles Agedeppa, director IV and scientist II of the Department of Science and Technology, Food and Nutrition Research Institute.
While there is no direct mention of virgin coconut oil or VCO as an effective antiviral ingredient against COVID-19, its components, mainly lauric acid and monolaurin or glycerol monolaureate, are purported to have antiviral activity against different viruses.
Moreover, research studies suggest that medium chain fatty acids like laurin influence different aspects of the immune system. Coconut oil and its derivatives have been shown to be safe and effective among humans and animals albeit few human trials are available to date.
“The use of virgin coconut oil, which has been reported to have antiviral and immunomodulatory activity against several different viruses, bacteria, and infections, may be an option to use as a supplement because it is affordable and readily available in the country,” said Dr. Agdeppa.
There are two types of VCO: refined, bleached, and deodorized copra oil or RCO and virgin coconut oil or VCO. VCO has a higher content of vitamin E, sterols, and polyphenols, which are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory in nature. Considered as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), it is widely available and consumed in the Philippines.
During the 66th Nutritionist Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines Annual Convention in February 2021, Dr. Agdeppa presented a study aimed to evaluate the effects of virgin coconut oil (VCO) given to suspect and probable cases of COVID-19 in an isolation facility. The study was conducted in Santa Rosa Community Hospital Isolation Unit (SRCHIU) and Santa Rosa Community Isolation Facility (SRIF).
The randomized double blind controlled intervention trial involved 57 suspect or probable COVID-19 cases. The participants were aged 20 years and over, experiencing one or more symptoms of COVID-19. Other criteria for inclusion are admission in the center within three days at the time of baseline data collection, controlled hypertension with maintenance drugs, not pregnant, and slightly elevated liver enzymes. Individuals with heart disease, those taking statins (anti-cholesterol drug) and other heart medications, with hyperlipedemia (elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels) and pregnant women were excluded.
‘The use of virgin coconut oil, which has been reported to have antiviral and immunomodulatory activity against several different viruses, bacteria, and infections, may be an option to use as a supplement because it is affordable and readily available in the country.’
The qualified participants were divided into two groups: 29 participants belonged to the intervention group and given VCO mixed with standardized meals while the control group composed of 28 participants received standardized meals only. All meals were prepared in a central facility.
The initial dosage of VCO given from day 1 to day 3 is 0.6ml per kg body weight daily. Succeeding dose from day four to day 28 was increased to 1.2 ml VCO per kg body weight daily or double the amount. For an individual weighing 70 kg, the dosage would be three tablespoons or 45ml initially then increased to six tablespoons or 90ml daily. For participants who manifested intolerance, VCO was distributed among three meals daily.
After 28 days, results showed that out of the 57 cases, 19 and 18 participants tested with positive RT-PCR in the VCO and control groups, respectively. As early as the second day of intervention, 17 percent of the participants in the VCO group have manifested dissolution in the signs and symptoms compared to only 3.5 percent from the control group. Furthermore, participants in the VCO group showed no more COVID-19 related signs and symptoms on the 18th day while the control group took 23 days for the symptoms to be gone.
The C-Reactive Protein or CRP level, which is a marker for inflammation, has normalized among the VCO group as early as the 14th day. On the other hand, the control group remained at borderline level until the end of intervention. This simply means that the participants in the VCO group have diminished infection or inflammation after 14 days of virgin coconut oil intervention, thus having a faster recovery compared to the control group.
“VCO could be used as an adjunct supplement to probable and suspect cases of COVID 19. It could prevent COVID-19 positive cases to become severe. A replicate study must be conducted to build more evidences on the effects of VCO on mild and moderate cases of COVID-19,” said Dr. Agdeppa.
The collaborative study was conducted with DOST-PCHRD, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), DOST CALABARZON, the local government of Sta. Rosa City, and the Ateneo de Manila University.