Coconut, Cocos nucifera L., is a tree that is mainly grown for its nutritional and medicinal values. Coconut oil, derived from the coconut fruit, has been recognized historically as containing high levels of saturated fat. Unlike most other dietary fats that are high in long-chain fatty acids, coconut oil comprises medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). MCFA are unique in that they are easily absorbed and metabolized by the liver, and can be converted to ketones. Ketone bodies are an important alternative energy source in the brain and may be beneficial to people developing or already with memory impairment, as in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Here are the 7 wonderful benefits of coconut oils
- Improve your lipid profile
Daily consumption of coconut oils has been shown to improve the lipid profile and reduce the level of bad cholesterol in the body. Coconut oils have been shown in the studies to increase the HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) level (good cholesterol) and reduce LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) level (bad cholesterol) in the body. Recent study published in the BMJ journal shown that Coconut oil significantly increased HDL-C compared with butter 1. HDL level is usually used by the doctors as a marker of physical fitness. A healthy and active individual usually have a higher ratio of HDL over LDL. The level of LDL can be increased by regular exercise and physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with increased LDL level and reduced level of HDL in the blood.
- Improve brain power and cognitive functions
Regular consumption of coconut oils has been shown to improve brain function and reduce the risk of developing dementia. Coconut oils have been shown to improve the brain function of patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and considered non-drug alternative for treatment of dementia 2. One study on coconut oil enriched Mediterranean diet shown improvement in cognitive functions in patients with AD after 21 days of adopting this diet 3 . In addition to MCFA, coconut also contains phenolic compounds and hormones (cytokinins) that may assist in preventing the aggregation of the amyloid-β peptide, potentially inhibiting a key step in the pathogenesis of AD 4. Coconut oil has also been studied for the treatment of seizure disorder or epilepsy which are caused by abnormal neuronal discharges and activities in the brain.
- Increase body ability to burn fat and body metabolic rate
Coconut oils contain Medium-Chain fatty acids or Triglycerides (MCTs) and have been shown to help the body to burn fats efficiently through increased energy expenditure and lipid oxidation (fat burning). Coconut oil contains combinations of MCTs that help to increase the metabolic rate of the body and help to burn fat, aid the weight loss process and prevent obesity 5. Randomized controlled trials show that MCTs intake in the diet induces modest reductions in body weight and composition without adversely affecting lipid profiles. That means that you can consume coconut oils in moderation without increasing your cholesterol level 6.
- Best Skin Moisturiser and natural sun-screen
Coconut oils also can be applied to the skin and used as a moisturizer. Coconut oils were shown in clinical studies to improve skin health by providing effective skin hydration and increase skin surface lipid levels 7. Coconut oils are hypoallergenic, chemical-free, and fragrance-free, therefore suitable for all type of skin even the sensitive skins. Virgin coconut oil (VCO) is the finest grade of coconut oil are best used on the skin as the oils are rich in phenolic content, antioxidant activity and contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Applications of VCO on the skin have been shown to speed the healing process by increasing the production of collagen and formation of new blood vessels and this has been shown on the animal’s models 8. In addition, coconut oils also able to block 20% of the UV from penetrating the skin when exposed to sunlight. Coconut oils are also beneficial for hairs. Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft.
- Natural antimicrobials
Coconut oils are a natural antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal. Coconuts oils contain lauric acids which when digested, are converted to monolaurin. Lauric acid has proven anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. A study by Malaysian scientists has shown that coconut oil exhibit as much as 90% and 80% antibacterial activities against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, respectively 9. Coconut oils also have been shown to have antibacterial activity against C. difficile, which is a common hospital-acquired infection resulting from the overuse and overtreatment with antibiotics. A study showed that lauric acid in the virgin coconut oil inhibits the growth of the C. difficile and can be used to treated C. difficile associated diarrhea 10. The use of coconut oil for oil pulling is an effective adjuvant procedure in decreasing plaque formation and plaque-induced gingivitis 11. In the study, a statistically significant decrease in the plaque and gingival indices were noticed from day 7 and the scores continued to decrease during the period of study.
Oil pulling is considered a cost-effective intervention to promote dental hygiene. Coconut oils are also a potent antifungal and have been considered the first dietary intervention to reduce C. albicans GI colonization. Candida albicans, the most common human fungal pathogen, can cause infections with a mortality rate of ~40%. C. albicans is part of the normal gut flora, but when a patient’s immune system is compromised, it can leave the gut and cause infections 12.
When the scientists compared the effects of chlorohexidine (a potent ingredient in mouthwash), fluconazole (an anti-fungal drug used for the treatment of fungal overgrowth) and coconut oils, they found that coconut oil has shown significant antifungal activity which is comparable with ketoconazole and chlorhexidine 13. The best thing about coconut oils that you can get them without a prescription and far less toxic compared to those two compounds.
- Reduce the risk of heart disease (cardioprotective)
Regular consumption of coconut oils has been shown to protects from developing the cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke. Study on rats that were fed on heated palm oil diets (proinflammatory diets) shown that group of rats fed on heated palm oils diet with virgin coconut oils have lower systolic blood pressure compared to a group of rats fed on palm oils alone without virgin coconut oils supplementation. This study suggested that virgin coconut supplementation possesses a cardioprotective effect by preventing the increase in blood pressure via an antioxidant mechanism 14. The antioxidant properties of virgin coconut oils prevent the oxidative stress, which is indicated by the decreased formation of lipid peroxidation and protein oxidation products like malondialdehyde, hydroperoxides, conjugated dienes and protein carbonyls in serum15 and tissues compared to other oil such corn oils and sunflower oils.
- Anti-cancer properties
A recent study showed that lauric acids that present in coconut oils able to potential to hamper tumor growth. LA was shown to elicit inhibitory effects only in colon cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (induced cells death) 16. Currently, fatty acids are studied to be incorporated into the treatment of cancer. Lauric acid able to make tumor cells more sensitive to biological chemotherapy regime by inducing the expression of microRNA. A recent study published in Oncology Reports demonstrated that lauric acid may efficiently induce miR-378 expression which significantly improved sensitivity to Cetuximab (chemo biologic agent) in the treatment of colorectal cancer 17.
- Khaw, K.-T. et al. Randomised trial of coconut oil, olive oil or butter on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors in healthy men and women. BMJ Open 8, e020167 (2018).
- Hu Yang, I. et al. [COCONUT OIL: NON-ALTERNATIVE DRUG TREATMENT AGAINST ALZHEIMER´S DISEASE]. Nutr. Hosp. 32, 2822–7 (2015).
- de la Rubia Ortí, J. E. et al. Improvement of Main Cognitive Functions in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease after Treatment with Coconut Oil Enriched Mediterranean Diet: A Pilot Study. J. Alzheimer’s Dis. 65, 577–587 (2018).
- Fernando, W. M. A. D. B. et al. The role of dietary coconut for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: potential mechanisms of action. Br. J. Nutr. 114, 1–14 (2015).
- St-Onge, M.-P., Ross, R., Parsons, W. D. & Jones, P. J. H. Medium-Chain Triglycerides Increase Energy Expenditure and Decrease Adiposity in Overweight Men. Obes. Res. 11, 395–402 (2003).
- Mumme, K. & Stonehouse, W. Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides on Weight Loss and Body Composition: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J. Acad. Nutr. Diet. 115, 249–263 (2015).
- Agero, A. L. C. & Verallo-Rowell, V. M. A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Dermat. contact, atopic, Occup. drug 15, 109–16 (2004).
- Nevin, K. G. & Rajamohan, T. Effect of Topical Application of Virgin Coconut Oil on Skin Components and Antioxidant Status during Dermal Wound Healing in Young Rats. Skin Pharmacol. Physiol. 23, 290–297 (2010).
- Khoramnia, A., Ebrahimpour, A., Ghanbari, R., Ajdari, Z. & Lai, O.-M. Improvement of Medium Chain Fatty Acid Content and Antimicrobial Activity of Coconut Oil via Solid-State Fermentation Using a Malaysian Geotrichum candidum. Biomed Res. Int. 2013, 1–9 (2013).
- Shilling, M. et al. Antimicrobial Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil and Its Medium-Chain Fatty Acids on Clostridium difficile. J. Med. Food 16, 1079–1085 (2013).
- Peedikayil, F., Sreenivasan, P. & Narayanan, A. Effect of coconut oil in plaque related gingivitis – A preliminary report. Niger. Med. J. 56, 143 (2015).
- Gunsalus, K. T. W., Tornberg-Belanger, S. N., Matthan, N. R., Lichtenstein, A. H. & Kumamoto, C. A. Manipulation of Host Diet To Reduce Gastrointestinal Colonization by the Opportunistic Pathogen Candida albicans. mSphere 1, (2016).
- Shino, B. et al. Comparison of Antimicrobial Activity of Chlorhexidine, Coconut Oil, Probiotics, and Ketoconazole on Candida albicans Isolated in Children with Early Childhood Caries: An In Vitro Study. Scientifica (Cairo). 2016, 1–5 (2016).
- Kamisah, Y. et al. Cardioprotective effect of virgin coconut oil in heated palm oil diet-induced hypertensive rats. Pharm. Biol. 53, 1243–1249 (2015).
- Arunima, S. & Rajamohan, T. Effect of virgin coconut oil enriched diet on the antioxidant status and paraoxonase 1 activity in ameliorating the oxidative stress in rats – a comparative study. Food Funct. 4, 1402 (2013).
- Lappano, R. et al. The lauric acid-activated signaling prompts apoptosis in cancer cells. Cell Death Discov. 3, 17063 (2017).
- WENG, W.-H., LEUNG, W.-H., PANG, Y.-J. & HSU, H.-H. Lauric acid can improve the sensitization of Cetuximab in KRAS/BRAF mutated colorectal cancer cells by retrievable microRNA-378 expression. Oncol. Rep. 35, 107–116 (2016).