Coconut and COVID-19: Philippines studying antiviral properties of coconut oil as potential treatment

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Philippines is testing virgin coconut oil as a potential treatment against COVID-19 ©Getty Images
The Philippines is testing virgin coconut oil as a potential treatment against COVID-19 ©Getty Images

Related tags: Coconut oil, Philippines, COVID-19

The Philippines is looking to study virgin coconut oil (VCO) as a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which has since infected more than 80,000 people and killed more than 2,800 worldwide.

There is currently no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Now researchers in The Philippines are testing VCO, according to Dr Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council on Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST).

The PCHRD-DOST had announced on February 7 that it would test a “functional food” in infected patients with COVID-19 which Dr. Montoya confirmed in late February was coconut oil.

Dr. Montoya told NutraIngredientsAsia​ that coconut oil and its derivatives have been studied previously for its antiviral properties. He said the VCO has yet to be tested against COVID-19, but they plan on starting clinical trials soon.

Antiviral properties

In a formal statement​ published by Ateneo de Manila University (The Philippines), Dr Fabian Dayrit from the university and Dr Mary Newport of Spring Hill Neonatolody (USA) had also proposed the potential of coconut oil as a safe agent against COVID-19.

In a paper published in late January, they explained that coconut oil and its derivatives have been shown to be safe and effective antiviral compounds in both humans and animals.

Coconut oil contains lauric acid and monolaurin, which researchers believe the potential mechanisms behind its antiviral activity include, “First, they cause disintegration of the virus envelope; second, they can inhibit late maturation stage in the virus replicative cycle; and third, they can prevent the binding of viral proteins to the host cell membrane​.”

Coconut oil has also been studied in several clinical trials for its anti-HIV properties. Patients on the coconut oil treatment tend to show higher levels of CD4, CD8 and T lymphocyte counts compared to the control group.

Potential agent to fight COVID-19

The researchers said they support the potential of coconut oil, lauric acid and its derivatives as effective and safe agents against a virus like COVID-19.

Given the considerable scientific evidence for the antiviral activity of coconut oil, lauric acid and its derivatives and their general safety, and the absence of a cure for nCoV-2019 (now COVID-19), we urge that clinical studies be conducted among patients who have been infected with nCoV-2019​.”

If the study is successful, both researchers claimed: “This treatment is affordable and virtually risk-free, and the potential benefits are enormous​.”

The researchers even proposed a clinical trial and study design. The study design are as follows, control and standard care (Group 1), standard care and virgin coconut oil (Group 2), standard care and monolaurin (Group 3), standard care and monocaprin (Group 4), and standard care and sodium lauryl sulfate (Group 5).

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles told CNN Philippines that the treatment (virgin coconut oil) will be carried out by the National University of Singapore (NUS) as a prophylactic against COVID-19.

NutraIngredients-Asia​ reached out to NUS, which declined to comment.

Going viral

In China, the epicentre of the outbreak, there has been posts on the country conducting clinical trials of high dosages vitamin C infusion on infected patients.

Elsewhere in the world, there have been bogus posts by “wellness gurus and influencers” claiming that eating garlic, applying sesame oil on the skin, consuming a high intake of vitamins, would prevent COVID-19 infection.

In Singapore, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said in a formal statement, “There is currently no evidence that any health supplement, Chinese proprietary medicine, traditional medicine, herb or “clip-on” product can boost the immune system specifically to help prevent, protect against or treat COVID-19​.”

The authority advised consumers against purchasing any health products locally or online that claim to prevent or treat COVID-19.

The HAS has warned that many of these products carry advertising claims of “scientific evidence”, but “such claims often lack a robust scientific basis and cannot be verified, especially where emerging diseases such as COVID-19 are concerned​.”

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