Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) oil is a staple food in certain tropical and subtropical regions, with the coconut fruit often referred to as “miracle food”.
In these areas, coconut and its extracts (e.g. coconut kernel, copra, milk, oil, flour, sugar, butter) are used for their culinary, cosmetic and therapeutic values.
These include improving the moisture content of the skin, preventing hair damage, promoting oral hygiene and weight loss, and more.
Here are the top 5 science-based health benefits of coconut oil.
- Promotes Weight Loss
Despite its association with several comorbidities, the obesity epidemic is an increasing in the U.S.
Obesity patients are exposed to developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, joint and muscular disorders, and psychological issues.
The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) content in coconut oil induces satiety and contributes to weight loss.
Indeed, a 2003 study of 19 healthy overweight men showed that MCT oil consumption increases daily energy expenditure and decreases adiposity.
Nonetheless, the digestion mechanism of coconut oil is not yet fully understood, so keep an eye for future advances.
- Reduces Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a lipid molecule transported through your body by HDL and LDL. The former, sometimes called “good cholesterol”, is responsible for reverse cholesterol transport —meaning it absorbs cholesterol from vessels and carries it back to the liver for disposal—. On the other hand, LDL, also known as “bad cholesterol”, is a major factor associated with cardiovascular disease.
Good metabolic and heart health are characterized by high HDL level and low LDL level.
The consumption of coconut oil exerts favorable effects on cholesterol levels. This is particularly due to its richness in natural saturated fatty acids, mainly lauric acid.
In one study in 32 participants, coconut oil increased HDL level by up to 5.2 mg/dl after 8 weeks.
- Reduces The Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
According to the American Heart Association, nearly 48% of Americans have some type cardiovascular disease. This includes hypertension, stroke, congestive heart failure, myocardial infraction, and more.
Scientific research suggests that consumption of substances with radical scavenging capacity, notably coconut oil, can reduce the risk associated with cardiovascular disease.
In a 2017 animal study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, a group of researchers found that dietary supplementation with virgin coconut oil exerts favorable effects on cardiovascular risk indices in rats.
- Helps Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the third leading cause of death in the world with over 25 million affected individuals.
Several sources of evidence reported that MCTs contained in coconut oil exert a preventive role in Alzheimer’s disease by improving the cognitive function.
Once these MCTs are metabolized by the liver, they are converted into ketone bodies which represent an alternative energy source for malfunctioning brain cells.
According to a 2015 study on the potential use of coconut oil as a non-alternative drug treatment against Alzheimer’s, daily doses of 40 milliliters of extra virgin coconut oil improved the cognitive status of Alzheimer’s patients.
However, there is still a need for further elucidation of the relationships between coconut oil consumption itself and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Promotes Oral Hygiene and Protects Your Hair
Coconut oil isn’t just a food; it is also used for cosmetic purposes to keep skin and hair retain their youthful looking.
Numerous scientific studies showed that coconut oil improves skin hydration and reduces the symptoms of both eczema and xerosis. (source)
Thanks to its monolaurin compound, coconut oil is also used as a mouthwash solution to enhance dental health and treat bad breath. Moreover, monolaurin exerts antimicrobial effects which are beneficial in the treatment of various infections such as colds, shingles, among others.