Coconut oil is one of the few foods that can be classified as a “superfood.”
Its unique combination of fatty acids can have profound positive effects on health. This includes fat loss, better brain function, and many other amazing benefits.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of coconut oil that have been experimentally confirmed in human studies.
1.Coconut oil contains fatty acids with powerful medicinal properties
Coconut oil has been demonized in the past because it is loaded with saturated fat. In fact, coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fat known to man, with almost 90% of the fatty acids in it being saturated.
Yet, new data is showing that saturated fats are mostly harmless. Numerous studies with hundreds of thousands of people have found no link to heart disease.
Additionally, coconut oil doesn’t contain your average saturated fats, like the ones you would find in cheese or steak. They contain Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) – which are fatty acids of a medium length.
Most of the fatty acids in the diet are long-chain fatty acids, but the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolized differently. They go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source of energy or turned into so-called ketones, which can have therapeutic effects on brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
2.Populations that consume a lot of coconut oil are healthy
Coconut is an exotic food in the Western world, primarily consumed by health conscious people. Yet, in some parts of the world, coconut is a dietary staple that people have thrived on for many generations.
The best example of such a population is the Tokelauans, which live in the South Pacific. They eat over 60% of their calories from coconuts and are the biggest consumers of saturated fat in the world. These people are in great health, with no evidence of heart disease.
3.Coconut oil can help you burn more fat
Obesity is currently one of the biggest health problems in the world. While some people think obesity is only a matter of calories, others (myself included) believe that the sources of those calories are important too.
It is a fact that different foods affect our bodies and hormones in different ways. In this regard, a calorie is not a calorie. The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil can increase how many calories you burn compared to the same amount of other fats.
One study found that 15-30 grams of MCTs per day increased 24-hour energy expenditure by 5%, totaling about 120 calories per day.
4.Coconut oil can kill harmful microorganisms
Almost 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil is the 12-carbon Lauric Acid. When lauric acid is digested, it forms a substance called monolaurin. Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
For example, these substances have been shown to kill the bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus (a very dangerous pathogen) and the yeast Candida Albicans, a common source of yeast infections in humans.
5.Coconut oil can reduce your hunger, helping you eat less
One interesting feature of coconut oil is that it can reduce your hunger. This may be related to the way the fatty acids in it are metabolized because ketones can have an appetite reducing the effect.
In one study, varying amounts of medium and long chain triglycerides were fed to 6 healthy men. The men eating the most MCTs ate 256 fewer calories per day, on average.
6.The fatty acids in coconut oil are turned into ketones, which can reduce seizures
A so-called ketogenic (very low carb, very high fat) diet is currently being studied to treat various disorders. The best known therapeutic application of this diet is treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children.
This diet involves eating very little carbohydrates and large amounts of fat, leading to greatly increased concentrations of ketones in the blood. For some reason, this diet can dramatically reduce the rate of seizures in epileptic children, even those who haven’t had success with multiple different types of drugs.
Because the MCTs in coconut oil get shipped to the liver and turned into ketones, they are often used in epileptic patients to induce ketosis while allowing for a bit more carbs in the diet.
7.Coconut oil can improve blood cholesterol levels
The saturated fats in coconut oil may increase “good” HDL cholesterol in your body, but also help convert the “bad” LDL cholesterol into a less harmful form. Coconut oil may also improve other risk factors and therefore protect against heart disease.
In one study in 40 women, coconut oil reduced Total and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL compared to soybean oil. There are also rat studies showing that coconut oil reduces triglycerides, total and LDL cholesterol, increases HDL and improves blood coagulation factors and antioxidant status.
8.Coconut oil can protect hair against damage, moisturize skin, and function as sunscreen
Coconut oil can serve various purposes that have nothing to do with eating it. Numerous people are using it for cosmetic purposes and to improve the health and appearance of their skin and hair.
Studies on individuals with dry skin show that coconut oil can improve the moisture and fat content of the skin. Coconut oil can also be very protective against hair damage and one study shows effectiveness as sunscreen, blocking about 20% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Another application is using it like mouthwash in a process called oil pulling, which can kill some of the harmful bacteria in the mouth, improve dental health and reduce bad breath.
9.The fatty acids in coconut oil can boost brain function in Alzheimer’s patients
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia worldwide and occurs primarily in elderly individuals. In Alzheimer’s patients, there appears to be a reduced ability to use carbs for energy in certain parts of the brain.
Researchers have speculated that ketones can provide an alternative energy source for these malfunctioning brain cells and reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
In one 2006 study, consumption of medium chain triglycerides led to immediate improvement in brain function in patients with milder forms of Alzheimer’s. Other studies support these findings and medium chain triglycerides are being intensively studied as potential therapeutic agents in Alzheimer’s disease.
10.Coconut oil can help you lose fat, especially the harmful abdominal fat
Given that coconut oil can reduce appetite and increase fat burning, it makes sense that it can also help you lose weight. Coconut oil appears to be especially effective at reducing belly fat, which lodges in the abdominal cavity and around organs.
This is the most dangerous fat of all and is highly associated with many chronic diseases. Waist circumference is easily measured and is a great marker for the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity.
In a study in 40 women with abdominal obesity, supplementing with 30 mL (2 tablespoons) of coconut oil per day led to a significant reduction in both BMI and waist circumference in a period of 12 weeks.
Not all coconut oil is the same
In order to enjoy the health benefits outlined in the article, then you must get organic, virgin coconut oil, not the refined stuff.