DOST study: Meals with VCO can reduce symptoms for probable, suspect COVID-19 patients
MANILA, Philippines — Virgin coconut oil (VCO) taken as a food supplement can reduce symptoms among probable and suspect novel coronaviruses disease (COVID-19) cases, according to a study by the Department of Science and Technology.
Symptoms — such as cough, colds, body ache, headache, loss of taste and smell, and fever — in the group where patients were given VCO doses “significantly declined” at the second day, and no symptoms were observed from them at Day 18, Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said in a virtual briefing on the results of the study on Thursday.
The study led by the DOST-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) involved 57 patients at two isolation facilities in Santa Rosa, Laguna province, who underwent a 28-day intervention period starting in August.
Of the volunteer participants, 29 patients were assigned to be given standardized meals mixed with VCO, while the other 28 became the control group and received no VCO doses.
Meals were served free of charge and delivered in the quarantine facilities during the participants’ confinement and later at their respective homes after being discharged.
An initial dose of 0.6 milliliters of VCO per kilogram of body weight was mixed with the standard breakfast meals of the VCO group on the first three days of the trial.
The dose was increased to 1.2 mL of VCO per kg of body weight mixed with the standard breakfast and lunch of the VCO group from Day 4 to 28.
According to Dela Peña, immediate effects of the VCO were observed among five of the 29 patients in the VCO group, who experienced decreasing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 as early as Day 2, compared with only one patient from the control group who showed similar improvement.
By Day 18, all of the patients at the VCO group experienced no more symptoms. No symptoms were observed among patients at the control group only at Day 23.
The diminishing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in the VCO group was supported by the decreasing levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) among the patients, according to Dr. Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa, chief science research specialist at FNRI and the leader of the VCO study.
CRP is a quantitative marker used in monitoring inflammation or infections. CRP levels of less than 5 milligrams per liter of blood indicate no infection or inflammation.
Average CRP levels of the VCO group normalized to 5 mg/L or less as early as Day 14, and continuously decreased until Day 18. On the other hand, normalization of CRP levels in the control group was evident from the first 14 days, “but this remained at the borderline of 5 mg/L from Day 14 until the end of the intervention.”
“We consider the results of the study significant, meaning to say that the VCO group has better results compared with the controlled group in diminishing signs and symptoms of COVID-19,” Agdeppa said.
“We tested this statistically, and if you can ask us if we can recommend this, yes, the results speak so loud that… The VCO has significantly declined the CRP level among patients. It means to say that our VCO has really improved our patients in terms of [absence] of infection,” she noted.
Not a cure
Agdeppa, however, cautioned the public that VCO is not a cure for COVID-19.
“It is an adjunct supplement to reduce the symptoms among probable and suspect COVID-19 cases, so they would not develop into severe cases. This is not a treatment [for COVID-19],” she said.
The Department of Health has yet to give a recommendation to use VCO as a supplement for probable and suspect COVID-19 cases in government isolation facilities.
The VCO used in the study were strictly analyzed by the Laboratory Services Division of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to ensure product quality and compliance to Philippine National Standards.
PCA administrator Benjamin Madrigal Jr. urged the public who would use VCO as a food supplement to look for commercially available products approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Madrigal requested VCO producers to have their VCO samples analyzed by the PCA prior to promotion and marketing.
PCA is planning to develop the protocol in establishing the seal of quality for VCO, together with other international quality standard institutions.
The team recommended more studies, especially in other places here and abroad, to determine the effectiveness of VCO as a support therapy for COVID-19 patients and patients with other comorbidities.
The clinical study was based on a previous research by coconut oil expert Dr. Fabian Antonio Dayrit, professor emeritus at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) on the potential use of coconut oil as a safe antiviral agent.
In a research published in January by Ateneo, Dayrit and Dr. Mary Newport of Newport of Spring Hill Neonatology in Florida, proposed the conduct of clinical studies, citing papers that confirmed the potential of coconut oil, particularly its active compounds lauric acid and monolaurin, as effective and safe agents against viruses, such as the SARS-COV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19.
Besides Agdeppa and Dayrit, other members of the VCO research team were Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the DOST – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD); and FNRI scientists Mario Capanzana, Jacus Nacis and Carl Vincent Cabanilla.
The VCO clinical trial is a joint study of the FNRI, PCHRD, Philippine Coconut Authority, DOST – Calabarzon Region, the local government of the City of Santa Rosa, Laguna, and ADMU.
A parallel clinical trial on the use of VCO as adjuvant treatment for COVID-19 is also being conducted at the Philippine General Hospital.
According to the DOST, the VCO study is a promising initiative in exploring locally-available and easily-accessible food supplements that might help in the management of COVID-19.
Currently, the DOST is also conducting clinical trials for local medicinal plants lagundi and tawa-tawa, as well as high-dose melatonin, as possible supplement treatments for COVID-19.
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