Coconut vs COVID-19: What you need to know about PH’s VCO trials

Since 2020, the Philippines has been looking into the effectiveness of virgin coconut oil as a potential supplement to help prevent symptoms from becoming severe for probable and suspect coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, and as an adjunct therapy for hospitalized COVID patients.

(Manila Bulletin File Photo)

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is bracing for the completion of two ongoing studies on the VCO by June this year.

The first project seeks to look into VCO as an adjunctive therapy for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Dr. Marissa M. Alejandria of the University of the Philippines-Manila National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) is leading the team.

DOST Secretary Fortunato “Boy” T. de la Peña said the project is implemented for 12 months, from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.

He said the study aims to determine the safety and efficacy of VCO as adjunctive therapy for COVID cases.

“This study employed a randomized controlled trial design, and the project team is ongoing with their patient enrolment and has enrolled 42 patients in the study out of the targeted 74 patients,” he said.

“Currently, they are planning to conduct an interim analysis of their ongoing study to serve as a basis for further studies on the mechanism of action of VCO.”

De la Peña said the second project seeks to evaluate the beneficial effect of virgin coconut oil given to suspect and probable cases of COVID-19 who are quarantined in a center or hospital.

DOST-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) Director Dr. Imelda Angeles Agdeppa is the lead person on the "randomized double-blind controlled intervention trial” on VCO.

The project is implemented on May 1, 2020 to June 31, 2021.

De la Peña noted that based on the VCO study in Santa Rosa, Laguna, result showed that meals mixed with VCO could reduce COVID-19 symptoms in suspect and probable cases, thus, possibly preventing the progression or severity of the disease.

He said the project is still ongoing with Valenzuela City as an additional site.

“The project now also includes asymptomatic RT-PCR confirmed COVID-19 patients to participate in the study,” he said.

He said 23 COVID patients have so far been enrolled out of the targeted 120 study participants.

"This is expected to be completed in June 2021,” the DOST chief said.

In December 2020, the FNRI team reported the effectiveness of VCO on 57 probable and suspected cases at the Santa Rosa Community Quarantine Facility and in Santa Rosa Community Hospital.

Results of the FNRI study on VCO as dietary supplement among COVID-19 probable and suspect cases showed that "five of the 29 patients who were served meals with VCO manifested diminishing signs and symptoms as early as the second day, while only one patient served with the same meals but without VCO showed similar improvement."

The VCO group of patients who were served meals with VCO showed no COVID-19 related symptoms at Day 18, while symptoms persisted in some patients of the Control Group of patients who were served the same meals without VCO until Day 23, it showed.