Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) is sweeping the health industry as a versatile health and nutritional product. Termed as “Mother of all oils,” VCO is a treasure trove of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, making it an excellent nutraceutical.

As a natural oil extract from coconut, VCO is a powerful fat burning food. According to a paper published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2003, “Human studies have shown that replacing the more common dietary long-chain triglycerides for medium chain triglycerides leads to increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation resulting in body adipose tissue loss.”

The saturated fat content of VCO is processed by the liver and quickly turned into energy. VCO’s fat burning potential has also a profound effect on energy and blood sugar, and therefore in the control of diabetes. Its intake helps sustain blood sugar levels throughout the day while boosting metabolism. Taking this dietary fat triggers the release of a satiety hormone known as cholecystokinin. This hunger-modulating hormone helps minimize cravings for sugar and process the carbohydrates, thereby regulating their conversion into stored body fats.

Besides weight control, using VCO will reap you other health benefits – a stronger heart, and a stronger immune system. It is rich in both lauric and capric acids that are packed with antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal properties. With qualities similar to mother’s milk, lauric acid is known for its disease-fighting ability.  When it enters the human body it is converted to monolaurin, a substance with the ability to enhance immunity.

Lauric and capric acids also help increase the bioavailabity of nutrients found in other foods while it buffers the conversion of carbohydrates into body fat.

Because of its value as nutraceutical and its functionality as food, the world and local market demands for VCO is rising.

VCO is a natural oil extracted from cold-pressed coconut milk. Inspite of its growing use, limited researches are being done to determine the factors affecting its quality. The biochemical composition of the VCO product could vary with the maturity stages of the nuts, different cultural and agro-climatic factors, and varietal difference. Currently, processors are limited to using Laguna tall, a commonly grown variety of coconut.

Through its project, “Utilization of Coconut Genetic Sources for High Value and Emerging Products,” the Philippine Coconut Authority- Zamboanga Research Center (PCA-ZRC) is now trying to determine the best performing coconut hybrid and cultivars for high quality VCO commercial production. To date, the project has identified hybrids with 13 potential genetic materials for VCO production whose biochemical assays showed higher values for Vitamin E, and higher lauric acid content than the PNS for VCO.

This 5-year project is being funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCAARRD-DOST) and is expected to be completed in 2015.

The above-mentioned project is only among other projects funded and coordinated by the Council in keeping with the first and foremost of the outcomes committed by DOST: “Science based know-how and tools that enable the agriculture sector to raise productivity to world class standards.”

During a recent official visit of Dr. Patricio S. Faylon, PCAARRD Executive Director and a group of directors from the Council’s technical research divisions, Mr. Ramon L. Rivera, PCA-ZRC Deputy Administrator for Research, Development and Extension, showed the delegation the newly established working VCO production plant and sap sugar processing plant for commercial use.