After 7 months of adjusting, struggling, surviving, and waiting, the country is now getting ready to go back to normal when the GCQ is lifted. This, despite the looming threat of COVID-19 in the absence of a vaccine and the number of new positive cases recorded per day albeit a slight decline as shown in the DOH COVID-19 Case Tracker.
The government and the medical sector warned the public, however, to not be complacent and still follow all the mandated safety protocols. Following this, the DOH released a list of back-to-work FAQs to ensure the safety and protection of all employees who will return to work and employers who will resume their business operations.
Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) And The Pandemic
To go back to normal, however, doesn’t dismiss any pursuit of a COVID-19 cure. Worldwide research on a possible treatment is still ongoing, and one of them is from our very own team of researchers and scientists under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Last April 28, 2020, DOST’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute, together with the Philippine Coconut Authority, DOST’s Philippine Council for Health Research Development, and DOST-CALABARZON, held a meeting to discuss the role of Virgin Coconut Oil as a meal supplement for COVID-19 patients.
What is VCO?
Virgin Coconut Oil or VCO is produced from fresh coconuts without going through any kind of chemical processing. It’s an unprocessed form of coconut oil, thus, contains a higher concentration of lauric acid.
The lauric acid is the active ingredient of the VCO, which is responsible for its therapeutic properties. VCO is different from the traditional cooking oil as the latter is processed from copra. To produce the oil, the copra is subjected to extreme temperatures.
Due to the contaminated process, the end product has to be treated to make it as a Refined, Bleached, and Deodorized (RBD) Cooking Oil, which is what we commonly use for cooking. The entire process of producing RBD Coconut Oil reduces the lauric acid, which then lessens its efficacy. It is also difficult to drink because of its high viscosity.
What are the benefits of VCO?
There are numerous proven benefits that can be derived from VCO use. One of them is that it serves as a natural antibiotic treatment. It also boosts the immune system and increases good cholesterol.
Several studies also showed a reduced rate in terms of cardiovascular diseases on people who use VCO as part of their diets, given that there is a limit in consumption. VCO is also popularly known as excellent moisturizers for dry skin and frizzy hair.
It is also used as an antioxidant to treat some types of depression and to reduce stress. The anti-inflammatory properties of VCO also make it ideal for cavity protection, maintenance of oral bacteria balance, and gingivitis improvement.
VCO In The Global Market
There is a high demand in the global market for VCO which is expected to continue until 2023. A growth analysis in the industry, as reported by Medium, shows that the increase in VCO awareness is fueling this demand. This is attributed to the growing concern for skin, hair, and preventive treatments as consumers target a healthier lifestyle.
The Asia Pacific comprises a majority of this market as the top producers of VCO all over the world. According to a report by Research Nester, Indonesia dominates the coconut production industry all over the world producing about 180 million tons followed by the Philippines and India with 150 million tons and 115 million tons respectively.
Can VCO Really Cure COVID-19?
But the great question still remains – can VCO cure COVID-19? One of the clinical trials performed by DOST showed improved conditions of patients with mild COVID-19 cases who took VCO during mealtimes as a supplement. The 30 patients are part of the several trials that started last April, which the department hopes to finish by November 2020.
They are targeting 56 patients to make conclusive reports on claims that VCO can indeed lessen the effects of COVID-19 on a patient and eventually recover. The study was conducted at the Sta. Rosa Community Hospital wherein study patients will be monitored for 28 days starting from their first day of participation.
The VCO will be administered to the patients thrice a day every mealtime. According to DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, half of the study patients will take VCO as a supplement in their diets while the other half will not take VCO in their meals. From here on, the results between the two groups will be assessed and then compared.
He said that the analysis of the test results will take about a month. He also mentioned the in vitro studies conducted by Ateneo last February regarding the lauric acid efficacy on SARS-CoV-2. The study showed promising results highlighting the antiviral capability exhibited by lauric acid and its derivatives.
The targeted study patients at the Santa Rosa Community Hospital were limited to 56 from 90 due to the slow arrival of patients qualified for the study. Meanwhile, PGH will also be performing clinical tests on using VCO for moderate and severe COVID-19 cases.
The Implications In The Philippine Coconut Industry of VCO As A COVID-19 Treatment
As soon as the results of the clinical trials performed by DOST are released in November, it will create a major stir in the local production of VCO in the Philippines. This local demand may even escalate to greater international demands as other countries recognize the efficacy of VCO as a COVID-19 treatment for mild cases.
As one of the top producers of coconuts worldwide, this means that the coconut industry of the Philippines has to be competitive enough to meet the demands of this new market (locally and globally) created by the pandemic. The coconut-producing sectors of the country will have to be aggressive in scaling up the production of coconuts and VCO. This includes targeting an increase in coconut yield, encouraging more coconut farmers to venture into VCO production, and adding more coconut processing facilities.
On the side of the consumers, Filipinos need not worry about high market prices of VCO products should the DOH release an official statement declaring its safe and proven use as a supplement to aid in COVID-19 recovery. There’s no need to outsource these products which means greater availability in the local market. It will not only result in a decrease of severe cases and zero positive cases, but it will also help the Philippine economy bounce back through the agricultural and coconut industries.
SOURCES: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282857 https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coconut-oil/ https://medium.com/@sofiawatson907/virgin-coconut-oil-market-global-demand-growth-analysis-future-opportunity-outlook-2023-aebbd6b680e7 https://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph/index.php/programs-and-projects/news-and-announcement/789-dost-conducts-an-interagency-meeting-for-the-community-based-study-on-virgin-coconut-oil-vco https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/27232/20200909/philippines-studying-coconut-oil-potential-covid-19-treatment.htm https://www.cnn.ph/news/2020/7/21/virgin-coconut-oil-covid-19-research-patients.html https://mb.com.ph/2020/09/14/vco-trials-for-covid-19-patients-use-to-be-completed-in-november-dost/