VIA E-MAIL, March 28, 2006
 (PCASTRD) PRESS RELEASE March 2006 (For further inquiries, please contact Dr. VIRGINIA G. NOVENARIO-ENRIQUEZ 837-2071 to 82, local 2102, 2109)

What makes virgin coconut oil tick? RP scientists study virgin coconut oil’s components

With support from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), scientists at Ateneo de Manila University are conducting an in-depth study to ensure that Philippine virgin coconut oil will remain competitive according to research-based quality standards.

“This research will provide some of the much needed technical information for virgin coconut oil (VCO) and suggest measures in support of empirically-based quality assurance to upgrade the VCO industry, and the coconut industry as a whole”, says research leader Dr. Fabian Dayrit, Dean of the School of Science and Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University.

Dr. Dayrit stated that since VCO is not a uniquely Filipino product, it has to build its reputation in the international market by defining quality assurance based on scientific data.

Virgin coconut oil (VCO) has become popular in the country as natural health supplement. It is said to be effective for indigestion, asthma, diarrhea, and even HIV. In addition, studies have shown that VCO have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties to fight against diseases.

With VCO as “miracle oil,” the country’s coconut industry, which was once derided as a sunset industry, has seen a revival. Largely attributed to consumer’s perception of coconut oil, coconut exports registered a significant 14 percent increase from $390 to $445.7 million early last year according to data from Philippine Coconut Authority.

While the interest in VCO is a very welcome development for the country’s coconut industry, competition for the lucrative VCO markets from neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, India, and the countries along the Pacific region as well as the Caribbean and the US, is becoming more intense.

Ongoing research to develop advanced methods of testing various VCO products and refined bleached and deodorized coconut oil (RBD CNO) is being undertaken to further develop the export potential and sustain VCO’s success in the local and international market.

According to Dr. Dayrit, VCO products may vary in chemical composition and minor constituents depending on the production process. Minor constituents that may be found in VCO include monoglycerides, diglycderides, tocopherols and phytosterols. Monoglycerides and diglycerides are combinations of fatty acids and naturally derived alcohol called glycerol. Tocopherol is an antioxidant, while phytosterol fights cancer and reduces cholesterol.

Researchers at the National Chemistry Instrumentation Center, Ateneo de Manila University, led by Dr. Dayrit, are using advanced instrumental techniques such as Phosphorus Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (PNMR) and Mass Spectrometry (MS) to conduct the detailed chemical test. PNMR is a technique that can provide detailed information on the exact three-dimensional structure of a biological particle in solution, while MS can determine masses of small electrically charged particles. Unlike conventional methods, PNMR and MS, can identify and quantify chemical compounds as well as minor constituents with very low molecular masses.

These advanced methods will be utilized together with classical chemical methods to test various VCO products produced by different processes such as low-heating, cold-pressed, fermentation, centrifuged and enzymatic.

Furthermore, Dr. Dayrit will contrast VCO from RBD CNO or the regular cooking oil derived from copra based on its minor constituents. Although, general characteristics such as fatty acid profile, % moisture, free fatty acid and iodine value are reflected in literature data, none of these data can be used to differentiate VCO from RBD CNO.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through the Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development (PCASTRD), has extended support to Dr. Dayrit and his team of researchers to carry out this project.

For more information, please contact the Research and Development Management Division of PCASTRD at or tel. nos. 837-2071 to 82 loc 2100-2109 (Liza Aleria)

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Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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