Virgin coconut oil supplementation attenuates acute chemotherapy hepatotoxicity induced by anticancer drug methotrexate via inhibition of oxidative stress in rats

Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Mar;87:437-442. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2016.12.123. Epub 2017 Jan 6.


Background: The emerging health benefit of virgin coconut oil (VCO) has been associated with its potent natural antioxidants; however, the antioxidant and hepatoprotective effect of VCO against methotrexate-induced liver damage and oxidative stress remains unexplored. The study explored the antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects of VCO against oxidative stress and liver damage induced by anticancer drug methotrexate (MTX) in rats.

Methods: Liver damage was induced in Wistar rats pretreated with dietary supplementation of VCO (5% and 15%) by intraperitoneal administration of MTX (20mg/kg bw) on day 10 only. After 12days of treatment, assays for serum liver biomarkers (aminotransferases), alkaline phosphatase, albumin and total protein as well as hepatic content of malondialdehyde, reduced glutathione and antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase) were carried out. Liver was used to examine histopathological changes.

Results: MTX administration induced significant increase in serum liver enzymes along with marked decrease in albumin and total protein compared to control group. Hepatic activities of antioxidant enzymes were significantly decreased, while malondialdehyde increased significantly. Treatment with VCO supplemented diet prior to MTX administration attenuated MTX-induced liver injury and oxidative stress evidenced by significant improvements in serum liver markers, hepatic antioxidant enzymes and malondialdehyde comparable to control group. Histopathological alterations were prevented and correlated well with the biochemical indices.

Conclusion: The study suggests antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects of VCO supplementation against hepatotoxicity and oxidative damage via improving antioxidant defense system in rats. Our findings may have beneficial application in the management of hepatotoxicity associated with MTX cancer chemotherapy.

Keywords: Chemotherapy; Hepatotoxicity; Lipid peroxidation; Methotrexate; Oxidative stress; Virgin coconut oil.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Coconut Oil
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Liver / diagnostic imaging*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Malondialdehyde / metabolism
  • Methotrexate / adverse effects*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Oils
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Catalase
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Glutathione
  • Coconut Oil
  • Methotrexate