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No, coconut water can’t be used instead of blood plasma, even in emergencies

A meme shared on Facebook in South Africa claims that coconut water “can be used (in emergencies) as a substitute for blood plasma” in blood infusions. 

The “fun fact” is attributed to the Young Professionals Forum, a religious organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria. Africa Check contacted the forum for comment, but we’re yet to get a response.

Can coconut water be used instead of blood plasma in emergencies? 

What is blood plasma?

Plasma is the fluid that “carries the blood components throughout the body,” according to the US-based University of Rochester Medical Centre

Blood plasma is the largest part of the blood and “when separated from the rest of the blood, plasma is a light yellow liquid that carries water, salts and enzymes,” the centre says.

The main role of plasma is to take nutrients, hormones and proteins to the parts of the body that need them. 

According to Donating Plasma, an educational website sponsored by the US Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association, plasma does important work in the body, “including clotting blood, fighting diseases and other critical functions”.

Plasma can also be donated and used to treat autoimmune disorders.

Study of coconut water used as hydration fluid in single case

There appears to be only one case report that describes intravenously supplying coconut water to a patient.

But here the writers conclude that coconut water was used as a short-term intravenous hydration fluid to hydrate the patient, not as an emergency substitute for blood plasma.

And the study doesn’t report on large-scale experiments or make any recommendations. The report described one instance, based on the medical records of one patient. 

Dr Tamara Thomas, one of the authors of the study, told Africa Check “no intravenous coconut water infusion was used in the study”.

The study only examined verbal and historical accounts of coconut water used for intravenous hydration, “particularly in wartimes”. 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. 

“Although historical World War II accounts state it has been used, based on studies of the coconut water we would not recommend its intravenous use," she told Africa Check.

“There are differences in hydrating and replacing plasma, and the study did NOT endorse either.”

‘This is nonsense’

Dr Zaheda Bhabha, a general practitioner in Johannesburg, South Africa, told Africa Check that “it makes no sense that coconut water can be used as an IV infusion as a replacement for plasma”.

“This is nonsense,” she said. She added that coconut water was unsterile, could not be used in an infusion and lacked all the components found in plasma. 

“Maybe it can be used orally to rehydrate quickly but as a replacement for plasma, that's impossible,” Bhabha said. – Taryn Willows


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