Objective: Data on the effect of coconut oil intake on various hematologic and metabolic parameters in pregnant women or animals are scanty. Hence we attempted to assess the effect of oral administration of graded doses of this edible oil during pregnancy, on various hematologic and metabolic parameters in rats.
Methods: Groups of pregnant Sprague Dawley rats were given oral doses of 1 ml, 2 ml, and 4 ml coconut oil twice per day, respectively. Control group of rats were given tap water. Oral feeding of oil was done continuously for a period of 20 days and at the end of the study period the animals were lightly anaesthetized with ether and sacrificed to collect blood samples for analysis. Various hematologic parameters such as red blood cell (RBC) count, white blood cell (WBC) count, hemoglobin (Hg), platelets, lymphocytes, and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) were analyzed by a hematology blood analyzer, while metabolic parameters such as cholesterol, triglycerides, urea, uric acid, creatinine, and protein were analyzed by specific analytical kits. Activities of antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPX), and total antioxidant activity (TAO) were assessed by specific analytical kits. Statistical analysis of data was performed using a SPSS data analytical package.
Results: Oral administration of coconut oil for 20 continuous days of pregnancy did not significantly alter any of the hematologic parameters studied, compared to control group even when the oil was administered at a relatively massive dose of 4 ml/day. Administration of coconut oil appeared to decrease WBC, Hg, platelet, and lymphocyte blood concentrations in treated rats, but the difference, however, was not statistically significant (ANOVA test; p > 0.05). However, platelet concentration was significantly lower (p < 0.05) in rats receiving 1 ml/day of coconut oil compared to control group rats. Administration of coconut oil did not alter the concentrations of protein, cholesterol, urea, triglycerides, uric acid, and creatinine in treated groups of rats significantly (Student's t-test, p > 0.05) compared to those of control rats. SOD, GPX, and TAO levels in control and treated groups were not significantly different (ANOVA test, p > 0.05) than controls.
Conclusions: We conclude that oral administration of coconut oil during pregnancy in rats, even in massive doses, does not cause any significant alterations in hematologic and metabolic parameters. More detailed studies, however, are warranted before extrapolating these results to human situations.