Philippines COVID-19 trial: Virgin coconut oil effective in reducing inflammation in suspected and probable infection cases

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Virgin coconut oil was effective in regulating the inflammatory process, with researchers attributing this to the phytochemicals present in virgin coconut oil ©Getty Images
Virgin coconut oil was effective in regulating the inflammatory process, with researchers attributing this to the phytochemicals present in virgin coconut oil ©Getty Images

Related tags: Philippines, COVID-19, Inflammation, Coconut oil

Virgin coconut oil has been found to be effective in reducing inflammation and showed rapid symptom relief in suspected and probable COVID-19 subjects, according to an RCT from the Philippines.

This study was conducted by researchers at Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Ateneo de Manila University, who recruited 56 individuals from two isolation facilities in the country, Santa Rosa Community Hospital Isolation Unit and Santa Rosa Community Isolation Facility.

Participants were divided into two groups, intervention and control. The invention group was given virgin coconut oil, which saw their C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels significantly decrease after 28 days, compared to the control group.

CRP is a marker for inflammation in the body.

Virgin coconut oil is an edible oil obtained from the milk of fresh and mature kernel of coconut. It is largely used in cooking, bakery, confectionary, and infant foods.

Recently, it also emerged as a weight management supplement, as well as treating other conditions such as diarrhoea and skin inflammations.

Although coconut oil and its derivatives have been shown to be safe and effective immunomodulatory agents in both humans and animals, reports on the efficacy of the virgin coconut oil as used in human trials are few​,” researchers said.

It contains a high amount of fatty acids such as lauric acid which are said to contain antiviral activity through its action of breaking down the virus envelope, inhibiting the virus replication cycle and preventing the binding of viral proteins to the host cell member. So researchers think it can be an  adjunct therapy to prevent the progression of symptoms among suspected or probable cases of COVID-19 in isolation facilities.

Previously, Dr Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa who was project leader and director of DOST-FNRI shared the preliminary findings​ with us.

The full study is now published in the Journal of Functional Foods​.

Study design

This randomised double-blind controlled intervention trial recruited 56 individuals admitted into isolation facilities. All participants were considered as suspect and probable cases of COVID-19, with typical symptoms including cough, fever, and loss of taste.

The study lasted 28-days, and patients were also provided standardised meals.

For the intervention group, virgin coconut oil was mixed in their meals.  The dosage was based on the patient’s body weight.

For day 1 to 3, the amount of virgin coconut oil added was 0.6 mL per kg of body weight and it was only served at breakfast.

For day 4 to 28, it was incorporated at breakfast and lunch and dinner at a higher dosage of  1.2 mL per kg of body weight.

Everyday, participants monitored their symptoms.

At baseline (day 1) day 14 and day 28, blood samples were collected to analyse lipid profile, and CRP levels. CRP levels above 5 mg/L generally indicate inflammation or infection.

Reducing inflammation

Through this study, it was observed that CRP levels in the intervention group significantly decreased from around 7.4 mg/L at baseline, to 2.5mg/L after 28 days.

Meanwhile, CRP levels in the control group dropped from 8.2 mg/L at baseline to 5.1 mg/L after 28 days.

The difference between both groups was significant.

At baseline, there were 10 people in the intervention group with CRP above 5 mg/L, indicating an infection or inflammation. At the end of the study, this number dropped to 5.

For the control group, similarly there were 10 people with CRP above 5 mg/L. After 28 days, the number increased to 12.

This suggest that virgin coconut oil was effective in regulating the inflammatory process, with researchers attributing this to the phytochemicals present in virgin coconut oil. Phytochemicals are antioxidants which help scavenge free radicals and reduce inflammation.

Participants also monitored their symptoms daily, and it was revealed that those in the intervention group showed no more COVID-19-related symptoms at day 18 while symptoms in the control group persisted until day 23, indicating a faster recovery.

Cholesterol

The study also analysed cholesterol levels on subjects.

It was revealed that the LDL and HDL-cholesterol levels signficantly increased in the intervention group after 28 days.

This could be attributed to the high proportion of lauric and myristic acid content of virgin coconut oil. But because it mostly contains medium chain fatty acids including myristic, palmitic, caprylic, capric, oleic, stearic and linoleic acids, researchers think the consumption of virgin coconut oil is unlikely to increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

Adjunct therapy

One thing the study did not report was the number of COVID-19 positive patients.

Although through these results, virgin coconut oil showed more rapid relief from symptoms of COVID-19 and a significant higher reduction in CRP levels compared to the control group after 28 days.

Researchers suggest it could be used as an adjunct supplement to probable and suspect cases of COVID-19 due to its anti-viral and immunomodulatory properties.

Virgin coconut oil is considered as GRAS (generally recognised as safe) by the US FDA in 2020.

More studies are recommended to gather more confirmatory evidence on the benefits of virgin coconut oil for COVID-19.

 

Source: Journal of Functional Foods

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2021.104557

Virgin coconut oil is effective in lowering C-reactive protein levels among suspect and probable cases of COVID-19​”

Authors: Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa, et al.

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