Coconut oil is one of the healthiest foods on the planet, with benefits that range from boosting cognitive function to reducing inflammation, and even fighting cancer
The health benefits of coconuts can be attributed to three unique medium-chain fatty acids, known as lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid. Unlike long-chain fatty acids, MCT’s are turned into fuel after a 3-step process vs other fats that normally take 26 or more steps. As a result, these fats are:
- Antimicrobial and antifungal
- Easy to digest
- Allow for easier cell permeability (and thus immediate energy) due to their smaller size
- Processed by the liver (they are directly converted to energy instead of being stored as fat)
Here are some other proven benefits of coconut oil…
1. Improve Cognitive Functioning in Patients with Alzheimer’s
Studies have shown that coconut oil appears to improve the cognitive abilities of Alzheimer’s patients. Recent research has revealed the brain’s ability to create its own insulin, subsequently leading to the finding that Alzheimer’s patients (with compromised brain functioning) often lose the ability to create insulin. In short, the ketones that are present in coconut oil have been shown to serve as an alternative energy source to insulin, subsequently helping patients rebuild and repair their brain function.
2. Decrease Inflammation
Studies have shown that a diet rich in coconut oil leads to a decrease in markers for inflammation. One study revealed that the polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) isolated from virgin coconut oil inhibited adjuvant induced arthritis in rats through antioxidant and inflammatory action. Another 2017 study showed a barrier-enhancing effect and anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil against ex vivo UVB irradiation-induced inflammation.
3. Fight Cancer
A recent study published in the Journal of Cancer Research has revealed that the lauric acid present in coconut oil has been shown to kill over 90% of colon cancer cells after two days of treatment. This is due to the fact that lauric acid triggers anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects in cancer cells through increasing reactive oxygen species levels. Furthermore, the ketones that are produced during the digestion process after consuming coconut oil are not able to be metabolized and used by tumor cells which are glucose-dependent.
4. Improve Gut Health
Coconut oil can improve bacteria and gut health through its antimicrobial effects. Through helping to regulate the bad bacteria and support good bacteria, coconut oil helps reduce inflammation as well as symptoms of leaky gut.
The concept of oil pulling refers to swishing a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth for ~20 minutes to help cleanse the mouth of bacteria and heal periodontal disease. Given its antimicrobial effects, through swishing, coconut oil is able to stick to the bacteria in the mouth, which decreases the risk of developing periodontal disease. In fact, studies have observed a 50% decreases in gingival and plaque indices after four weeks of oil-pulling.
6. Prevent Osteoporosis
Oxidative stress and free radicals have been implicated in the pathogenesis of osteoporosis. Given that coconut oil is rich in polyphenols, or antioxidants that fight free radicals, many use it as a natural or supplemental treatment for osteoporosis. In particular, coconut oil has been shown to help increase calcium absorption in your stomach, which leads to an increase in bone structure and volume.
7. Balance Hormones
The fatty acids in coconut oil have been shown to support the creation, processing, as well as elimination of hormones like estrogen and progesterone in the body, leading to hormonal balance. Coconut oil is also able to balance thyroid function through aiding in the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolene, a building block that the body uses to produce hormones. Studies have also found that coconut oil has positive effects on estrogen levels.
The medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are rich in coconut oil help the body maintain a healthy weight by increasing metabolism and energy levels. One study showed that consumption of MCTs in particular could potentially “induce modest reductions in body weight and composition without adversely affecting lipid profiles,” effectively improving weight loss.
I recommend taking between 2-3 tablespoons of organic virgin coconut oil every day. Easy ways to ingest it rather than having a straight spoonful might include putting a tablespoon in your smoothies, oatmeal, coffee, tea, or even cooking with coconut oil in lieu of olive oil.