You may often hear coconut oil referred to as a healthy alternative to vegetable oils when it comes to cooking. But coconut oil can provide a wide range of health benefits and can be used in many different ways. In this article, we will go over how coconut oil can help improve our health, some of the many health benefits, and whether or not there are any negative side effects to worry about.
Is Coconut Oil Beneficial to the Brain?
Before getting too deep into the benefits of coconut oil, it’s important that we point out that research regarding coconut oil is still in its infancy. This is especially true relating to coconut oil's beneficial impact on the brain. With that being said, there is some early research that points towards coconut oil having a positive impact on our brains.
It is believed that the reason for this is because coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides, also referred to as MCTs. These MCTs are metabolized differently than other types of fat. The MCTs in coconut oil break down into ketones, which can be used by brain cells for fuel. The idea is that supplying the brain with some extra fuel might improve cognitive function.
What are the Benefits of Coconut Oil?
The unique combination of fatty acids in coconut oil can lead to some major health benefits. Here are some coconut oil benefits that have been backed by research and scientific studies:
- Healthy fatty acids - Coconut oil is high in certain saturated fats. These fats have different effects on the body compared with most other dietary fats. The fatty acids in coconut oil can encourage your body to burn fat, and they provide quick energy to your body and brain. They also raise HDL (good) cholesterol in your blood, which may help reduce heart disease risk
- Heart health - Research regarding coconut oils’ impact on heart health is slim but there is evidence that points to it providing positive benefits. For example, a 1981 study noted that the population of Tokelau, an island chain in the South Pacific, obtained over 60% of their calories from coconuts. Researchers reported not only good overall health but also very low rates of heart disease
- Fat burning - As we mentioned earlier, coconut oil can break down into ketones which can help boost your metabolism. MCTs found in coconut oil can increase the number of calories your body burns compared with longer-chain fatty acids
- Immune system boost - Lauric acid makes up around 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil. When your body digests lauric acid, it creates monolaurin. Working together, lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi
- Hunger suppressor - MCTs also help reduce hunger. This more than likely has to do with the way your body metabolizes fats. Again, MCTs break down into ketones which act as a hunger suppressor
- Protect skin, hair, and teeth - The most common reason why people use coconut oil is for its skincare benefits. Research has found that coconut oil can improve the moisture content of dry skin and reduce the symptoms of eczema. Coconut oil can also protect against hair damage. One study shows that it may work as a weak sunscreen, blocking about 20% of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays
Remember, many of these claims still need further research to fully flesh out the positive benefits of coconut oil. With that being said, early studies have yielded positive results.
Is Coconut Oil Good for Mental Health?
On top of helping with our metabolism and immune system, it is believed that the MCTs found in coconut oil can also help boost cognitive performance. This is especially true in regards to older adults who are suffering from memory disorders as serious as Alzheimer’s. Some research even points to the fact that coconut oil can provide immediate results.
A 2004 study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging found that the administration of MCTs, the primary fat type found in coconut oil, almost immediately improved cognitive function in older adults with memory disorders. The researchers observed a significant increase in blood plasma levels of the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (beta-OHB) after only 90 minutes of treatment.
Does Coconut Oil Have Neurological Benefits?
Early research also has pointed to the possibility that coconut oil can help prevent seizures from happening. Again, this is because of its metabolism into ketones. Studies have found that a ketogenic diet can successfully reduce seizures in some children with epilepsy and is still being used to reduce the severity and frequency of pediatric seizures. Of course, a ketogenic diet is very low carb and very high fat.
Since it can be difficult to implement and maintain a ketogenic diet, researchers found that supplementing a diet with MCTs - the main fat in coconut oil - can help increase the body’s ketones without a ketogenic diet. Research also found that adding MCT oil to certain diets can reduce the frequency of seizures. In certain studies, it has been shown to have similar efficacy as a full ketogenic diet.
Does Coconut Oil Have Side Effects?
One of the main benefits of coconut oil is that as of right now, it doesn’t have any noticeable negative side effects. With that being said, coconut oil does contain certain fats that can increase cholesterol levels. This means you should avoid eating coconut oil in excess. Coconut oil is also safe when applied to the skin.
Again, it’s important to point out that more information is needed to determine whether or not coconut oil is perfectly safe for everyone. For example, there isn’t enough reliable information to know if coconut oil is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. When it comes to children, most experts believe that coconut oil is safe when used by children.
Supplements Can Help
Coconut oil helps keep our bodies healthy, both inside and out. It does this by providing a wide range of fatty acids - mainly MCTs - that help keep our brains, cells, and hearts healthy. Another way our body can achieve this is through autophagy. During autophagy, our body replaces older, damaged cell parts, with healthier ones. Much like wheat germ, spermidine is a compound that can help keep our bodies healthy, both inside and out, by inducing the autophagy process.
Spermidine is found in many of the foods that we eat. And in fact, our spermidineLIFE® supplements are extracted from wheat germ. However, we often don’t get what we need from diet alone, especially as we age and our body needs more nutrients. This is where supplements can step in to help support a healthy body.