VCO can ease mild COVID symptoms − DOST study

by David Alcala and Seth Pagulayan

VCO products are available for sale at the UPLB Technology Hub and One-Stop Shop (THOSS) near Baker Hall.

“Sa effects sa sarili ko, asymptomatic ako, although yung brothers and sisters ko symptomatic, so nakakatulong daw sa mga symptoms na nararamdaman nila. Sabi nila, nawala naman daw yung sipon nila at umokay daw yung sore throat nila compared nung di pa kami gumagamit nun.”

Sam Custodio is one of the thousands of Filipinos who had caught the COVID-19 virus along with her family. Fortunately, she was a follower of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Facebook page, where she learned about the clinical trials it had been doing on Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) as a possible treatment for COVID-19 infection. Since no COVID-19-specific medications were available at the time, they turned to VCO to help alleviate their symptoms.

VCO has been shown in in vitro and animal studies, as well as in clinical trials involving people living with HIV, to have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and immunoregulatory properties, prompting scientists from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (NFRI) of DOST to explore its use as an adjunct treatment for COVID-19.

Published in the Journal of Functional Foods in 2021, their study entitled, “Virgin Coconut Oil is effective in lowering C-reactive protein levels among suspect and probable cases of COVID-19”, was conducted by Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa, Dr. Jacus S. Nacis, Mario V. Capanzana, and Keith V. Tanda from the Department of Science and Technology Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) and Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit from the Department of Chemistry of Ateneo de Manila University.

Interview with Dr. Jacus Nacis, one of the proponents of the DOST study on VCO.

In an interview, Dr. Nacis said that VCO contains monolaurin, monocaprin, lauric acid, and capric acid which all have anti-viral properties. However, he said that VCO for the time being is being positioned not as a direct, but as an adjunct, treatment for COVID-19 infection.

“Hindi siya gamot, kasi at the end of the day, may vaccines tayo. Yun ang ultimate protection. Effective [ang VCO] in being an adjunct treatment dun sa mga manifestations [ng symptoms]. Titingnan kung bumabalik ba panlasa mo, mga blood parameters, mga liver functions mo,Dr. Nacis said.

Their study involved a 28-day randomized, double-blind, controlled trial involving 63 adults in two isolation areas in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. One group was given a meal containing VCO, while another was given a placebo. The study measured the patient’s levels of C-reactive proteins, which is a bodily indicator of inflammation, as the basis for the effectiveness of VCO. The former group showed a statistically significant decline in their levels of C-reactive proteins.

With the media briefings of the study team, the Department of Health steered interest towards the results of the study and due to this. Dr. Nacis stated that there are existing efforts to lobby with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in adding evidence towards the effectiveness of VCO as an adjunct treatment to COVID -19. For them, this will help the VCO industry and provide informed evidence for strategies for the medical community in terms of using VCO for medical purposes.

“We’re talking about trying to popularize science sa mga kababayan natin. At the end of the day, we’re into western medicine, although nageexist ang mga herbal medicine and functional foods, pagpupunta ka sa mga hospital ang ibibigay ay synthetic medicine. Ang VCO ay nasa continuum ng preventive,” Dr. Nacis said in the interview.

In Los Baños, VCO has been used by the UPLB University Health Service among its COVID-19 patients.

VCO products, like supplements and cocosilk soap, are also available for sale at the UPLB Technology Hub and One Stop Shop (THOSS) near Baker Hall.