A viral post, that claims that Coconut water, being isotonic and sterile, is being used as a substitute for IV bags in hospitals in third world countries is viral on Facebook.
Newschecker found this claim shared by a Facebook page called F’d Up Facts which has around 600,00 followers on the platform.
The post has been shared with the claim ‘Nature at its finest, I suppose’ on Facebook.
It was widely reported that during World War 2, British and Japanese doctors injected injured soldiers with coconut water when standard intravenous fluids ran out. According to the claim, coconut water mimics blood plasma and hence is safe to use as a substitute for IV bags.
Fact Check/ Verification
On a keyword search of the claim with the words “coconut water”, “injected”, “bloodstream”, Newschecker found a news article published by ABC Science. According to the article this myth has been popular for a long time dating back to the time of 1940’s. The article reported a claim that in 1942, Dr Pradera in Havana, Cuba injected 12 children with coconut water at rates of around one-to-two litres per 24 hours and found no adverse reactions. All these incidents were anecdotal and no study was conducted at the time to test the theory.
Clarifying the scientific differences between coconut water and blood plasma, the article said, “Coconut water has about one-fortieth the sodium level of plasma, while the potassium level is about 10-15 times higher. But besides the high potassium, coconut water is also loaded with calcium and magnesium, which means it’s definitely not suitable for patients with kidney failure, severe burns, etc. Another problem is that it is much more acidic than human plasma. The bottom line is that coconut water is not identical to human plasma.”
The article also referred to another study where a severely ill patient in Solomon islands was administered with coconut water intravenously and found to recover.
Newschecker found this study through a keyword search on Google. The study confirmed that the patient in Solomon islands was administered with coconut water intravenously without any adverse effects, but there is more to it. The study only researched the contents of coconut water in regards to the case of the patient in Solomon islands. The study concluded that “We report a case in which coconut water was administered intravenously in a Solomon Island patient without adverse effects. Coconut fluid has been shown to be an effective form of intravenous hydration solution in small volumes over short periods of time, and can be considered a temporising alternative to standard intravenous fluids in remote areas where supplies are scarce and coconuts, abundant and inexpensive. Additionally, it is a good source of potassium, chloride, and calcium and its use could be further indicated in situations in which these specific electrolytes need to be urgently increased. However, further studies need to be conducted to substantiate the emergency use of coconut water for intravenous rehydration solution.”
Newschecker also found a fact check done on the same claim by Africa Check.org. According to the fact check, they asked Dr Tamara Thomas, one of the authors of the study, who told Africa Check “no intravenous coconut water infusion was used in the study”. She also said that the study only examined verbal and historical accounts of coconut water used for intravenous hydration, “particularly in wartime”. These accounts did not say whether coconut water was used intravenously as a substitute for blood plasma.
The study looked at the content of coconut water, Thomas said.
In our investigation we found the claim that coconut water can be used as a substitute for standard intravenous fluid is Misleading.
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