Not many foods are classified as “superfoods,” but coconut is sure one of these, thanks to its health properties. Coconut oil is packed with fatty acids, which make it extremely powerful. It stimulates brain function, promotes healthy weight loss, and improves overall health.
We have listed the top 10 health benefits of coconut confirmed by a wide range of studies.
1. Coconut stimulates the fat burning process by increasing the energy expenditure
Obesity is one of the worst health problems of modern times. Most people think it is just a matter of calories, while others strongly believe that it is also important to determine the source of these calories. Different foods affect out body and hormone balance in different ways, meaning a calorie is NOT always a calorie.
Coconut oil contains MCT or medium-chain triglycerides. It increases the energy expenditure unlike the same calories obtained from long-chain fats.(5, 6) A study confirmed that 15-30 grams of MCT per day can increase the energy expenditure by 5%, or about 120 calories per day.(7)
Bottom line: Medium-chain triglycerides found in coconut oil increase the 24-hour energy expenditure by 5%, and enables healthy weight loss.
2. Fatty acids in coconut oil turn into ketones, and reduce seizures
Many scientists have studied the so-called ketogenic (high-fat, low-carb) diet for its efficacy in the treatment of many disorders. It is mostly applied in the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy in children.(14) It consists of large amount of fat and low intake of carbohydrates, and increases the concentration of ketone bodies in blood.
Ketogenic diet significantly reduces seizures in epileptic children, even in those who can not relieve their condition with drugs. MCT in coconut oil is transferred to the liver and it turns into ketone bodies, and it is often used in patients diagnosed with epilepsy to induce ketosis.(15, 16)
Bottom line: MCT in coconut oil reduces seizures in children with epilepsy by increasing the concentration of ketone bodies in blood.
3. Fatty acids in coconut oil boosts brain function in patients with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and it affects mostly elderly. In certain sections of the brain, patients with Alzheimers, glucose cannot be used to provide energy.
Ketone bodies provide energy for the brain and scientists believe that ketones can be considered as an alternative source of energy for the malfunctioning cells, and relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.(28) A 2006 study found that by consuming medium-chain triglycerides patients with mild form of Alzheimer’s can instantly improve their condition.(29)
Bottom line: Studies have found that fatty acids contained in coconut oil increase blood ketone bodies, supply energy for the brain cells in patients with Alzheimer’s, and thus relieve the symptoms.
4. Coconut oil is packed with a unique combination of fatty acids with strong medicinal properties
Coconut oil was not that popular in the past, mostly because it contains saturated fat. Coconut oil is one of the greatest sources of saturated fat out there, and almost 90% of its fatty acids are saturated. (1)
Furthermore, coconut oil does not contain the average saturated fat found in steak of cheese. It contains so-called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), fatty acids with medium length. Most fatty acids in our diet are long-chain fats, but the body metabolizes MCTs in coconut oil differently.
Medium-chain fats go from the digestive tract to the liver, and they turn into ketone bodies, which can be used as an instant source of energy. This can have therapeutic effect on disorders affecting brain, like Alzheimer’s or epilepsy.
Bottom line: Coconut oil is packed with medium-chain triglycerides; these can positively affect brain disorders, because the body metabolizes them in a different way.
5. Coconut oil protects hair against damages, moisturizes skin and can be used as a sunscreen
Coconut oil can be used for many purposes other than eating. People use it to improve their skin complexion and hair quality, and as an efficient cosmetic product.
Studies involving individuals with dry skin proved that coconut oil improves the lipid and moisture content of the skin layers.(22) It can be also used in the treatment of damaged hair, and one study showed that it is an excellent sunscreen, as it blocks about 20% of the ultraviolet rays.(23, 24)
Bottom line: Scientists found that coconut oil can be applied topically, as an effective skin moisturizer and great product for damaged hair. Coconut is also used as a mouthwash to protect dental health, and as a sunscreen.
6. People who consume a lot of coconut oil are the healthiest people on Earth
Coconut is primarily used by people who take care about their health, and it is still considered as an “exotic” food in the West. But, in some parts of the world, it is a common ingredient added to different dishes. The Tokelauans, who live in the South Pacific, are a perfect example of such populations.
They get 60% of their calories from coconuts, and they are the world’s biggest consumers of saturated fats. They have no health problems, and no single person has noticed signs of a heart disease.(3) The Kitavans (4) also eat large amounts of coconut and maintain their excellent health.
Bottom line: Many populations throughout the world eat large amounts of coconut and enjoy great health.
7. Lauric acid in coconut oil kills bacteria, viruses and fungi, and cures infections
12-carbon lauric acid is about 50% of the fatty acid content in coconut oil. When digested enzymatically, coconut oil forms monolaurin, a monoglyceride. Lauric acid and monolaurin together kill dangerous pathogens, like fungi, bacteria and viruses.(8)
Bottom line: Breakdown products and fatty acids together prevent infections and kill dangerous pathogens.
8. Coconut oil kills hunger, and makes you eat less
One of the most interesting facts related to coconut oil is its ability to reduce hunger. Ketone bodies increase appetite, and this is associated with the way in which our bodies metabolizes fatty acids. (11) A study involved 6 men who were consuming varying amounts of long- and medium-chain triglycerides.
Those who consumed the most MCTs, ate 256 less calories per day.(12) Another study involved 14 healthy men, and it showed that men who eat the most MCTs for breakfast eat less calories for lunch. (13) These studies were done for a short period of time. Imagine the effect of coconut oil when it is consumed regularly.
Bottom line: Fatty acids in coconut oil reduce appetite, and affects body weight positively.
9. Coconut oil regulates blood cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart diseases
Coconut oil is rich in saturated fat, and this does not affect the blood lipid profile like people thought before. Saturated fat changes LDL cholesterol and increases the good, or HDL, cholesterol, to a benign subtype. (17, 18)
A study involving 40 women showed that coconut oil reduces LDL and total cholesterol, and increases HDL levels, when compared to soybean oil.(19)
Rat studies have shown that coconut oil reduces total and LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, while increasing the HDL level. It improves the blood antioxidant status and the coagulation factor. (20, 21) On the long run, this decrease of the cardiovascular health could theoretically lead to lower risk of heart diseases.
Bottom line: Studies in humans and rats have shown that coconut oil regulates important risk factors like LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol, which contributes to a decreased risk of heart diseases.
10. Coconut oil provides healthy weight loss, and burns abdominal fat
Taking into consideration the fact that coconut oil reduces appetite and increases the fat burning, you would all agree that it can help you melt excess pounds. Coconut oil is amazingly efficient in melting abdominal fat, that surrounds organs and abdominal cavity. It is the most dangerous form of fat, and it is the root cause of modern diseases in the West.
Waist circumference is an excellent marker for the fat in the abdominal cavity and it can be easily measured. A study involving 40 women with abdominal fat, showed that by consuming 30 ml, or an ounce, of coconut oil on a daily basis, women could decrease both BMI and waist circumference within 12 weeks.(19)
Another study involved 20 males who struggled with obesity. They noted reduction of their waist circumference of 2.86 cm, or 1.1 inches, within 4-week consumption of coconut oil (30 ml) on a daily basis. (32)
Even though most of you will not be impressed by this number at first, but you must remember that these people did not restrict the calorie intake, nor did any kind of physical activity. They are losing abdominal fat only by adding coconut oil to their regular diet.
For optimal results and maximum benefits, always use virgin, organic coconut oil, and NEVER its refined form.
This is just a drop in the ocean. Remember, it is up to you to choose the most suitable way of adding coconut oil to your diet and enjoy its benefits.