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The effects of virgin coconut oil (vco) as supplementation on quality of life (qol) among breast cancer patients

Background: Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst Malaysian women. Both the disease and its treatment can disrupt the lives of the woman and adversely affect all aspects of life and thus can alter a womans’ quality of life. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of virgin coconut oil (VCO) on the quality of life (QOL) of patients diagnosed with breast cancer.

Methods: This was a prospective study of breast cancer patients admitted into the Oncology Unit of Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia. The sample consisted of 60 patients with stage III and IV breast cancer allocated to either an intervention group (n?=?30) or a control group (n?=?30) using a simple random table. QOL was evaluated from the first cycle of chemotherapy to the sixth cycle, and data were collected using a validated Bahasa Malaysia version of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Breast Cancer Module (EORTC QLQ-C30) and its breast-specific module (QLQ-BR 23).

Results: The mean age of breast cancer patients was 50.2 (SD?=?13.5) years. There were significant mean score differences for functioning and global QOL between groups (??<?0.01). The intervention group also had better scores for symptoms including fatigue, dyspnea, sleep difficulties, and loss of appetite compared to the control group. Although there are deteriorations for sexual enjoyment, the intervention group exhibited improvement in breast functioning and symptom scores for body image, sexual function, future perspective, breast symptoms, and systemic therapy side effects.

Conclusion: VCO consumption during chemotherapy helped improve the functional status and global QOL of breast cancer patients. In addition, it reduced the symptoms related to side effects of chemotherapy.

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Alex’s Notes: For all the coconut lovers out there, this one is for you. I know I love coconut, albeit the meat and not the oil. Regardless, it is interesting to see studies such as the present one that included 60 women ranging from 30-73 years old who were all diagnosed with stage III or IV breast cancer perfomed. They were undergoing six cycles of chemotherapy and from the second cycle onward were split into a group that consumed 10mL of virgin coconut oil (VGO) twice daily, or a placebo.

Surprisingly, this small amount of VCO was able to significantly improve the intervention group’s global quality of life by the sixth and final chemotherapy round. In fact, their quality of life was about 19% higher.  Interestingly, this is despite the fact that there were no significant differences in symptoms between the two groups, with loss of appetite being the most common. However, if we compare the final values of each group to the baseline, rather than comparing the groups to one another, a few things become clear. The VCO group has improvements in fatigue, dyspnea, sleep, and loss of appetite that likely were behind the improved quality of life scores, while the control group worsened in each of these symptoms. Additionally, both groups worsened in terms of nausea and vomiting, pain, constipation, diarrhea, and financial difficulties.

The same idea applies to body image, sexual functioning, and future perspective, with the VCO group showing improvements relative to baseline despite no statistically significant differences compared to the control group (which worsened in each of these). Sexual enjoyment was the only one to decline in both groups.

In a nutshell, this study was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of VCO on the quality of life in patients with breast cancer throughout six cycles of chemotherapy. The results clearly demonstrate that 20mL per day (just over one tablespoon) of VCO improved global quality of life, and had a trend towards alleviating some symptoms while restoring some breast-specific functioning scores.

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