Coconut oil is one of the few foods that can be classified as a "superfood".
Your unique combination of fatty acids can have positive effects on your health.
This includes fat loss, better brain function and several other impressive benefits.
Here are the top 10 health benefits based on the evidence of coconut oil.
1. Coconut oil contains fatty acids with powerful medicinal properties
Coconut oil has a high content of healthy saturated fats that have different effects to most other fats in your diet.
These fats can increase fat burning and provide energy and energy to your body and brain. They also increase the good HDL cholesterol in your blood, which is related to reducing the risk of heart disease.
Most fats in the diet are called long chain triglycerides, but the fats in coconut oil are known as medium chain triglycerides (MCT). What this means is that the fatty acids are shorter than most other fats (1).
When you eat these types of fats, they go directly to the liver, where they are used as a quick source of energy or they are converted into ketones.
Ketones can have powerful benefits for the brain, and are being studied as a treatment for epilepsy, Alzheimer's and other conditions.
Summary: Coconut oil has a high content of fats called medium chain triglycerides, which are metabolized differently to most other fats. These special fats are responsible for many of the health benefits of coconut oil.
2. Populations that eat a lot of coconut oil are healthy
Coconut is an exotic food in the Western world, mainly consumed by health conscious people.
However, in some parts of the world, coconut (loaded with coconut oil) is a staple food in which people have prospered for many generations.
The best example of such a population are the Tokelauans, who live in the South Pacific.
They used to eat more than 60% of their calories from coconuts. When they were studied, they were found to have excellent health, with very low rates of heart disease (2).
Another example of a population that ate a lot of coconut and remained in excellent health is the Kitavans (3).
Summary: Several populations throughout the world have thrived for multiple generations eating large amounts of coconut.
3. Coconut oil can increase fat burning
Obesity is one of the biggest health problems in the world.
While some people think that obesity is just a matter of calories, others (myself included) believe that the sources of those calories are also important.
It is a fact that different foods affect our bodies and hormones in different ways. In this sense, a calorie is not a calorie.
Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil can increase the amount of calories you burn compared to the same amount of calories from longer chain fats (4).
One study found that 15-30 grams of MCT per day increased energy expenditure by 24 hours by 5%, totaling approximately 120 calories per day (5).
Summary: It has been shown that medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil increase the calories burned for 24 hours by up to 5%.
4. Coconut oil can kill harmful microorganisms
The 12-carbon lauric acid makes up approximately 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil.
When lauric acid is digested, it also forms a substance called monolaurin.
Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi (6).
For example, it has been shown that these substances help kill bacteria. Staphylococcus aureus (a very dangerous pathogen) and yeast. Candida albicans, a common source of fungal infections in humans (7, 8).
Summary: The fatty acids in coconut oil can kill harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. This could potentially help prevent infections.
5. Coconut oil can reduce your hunger, helping you eat less
An interesting feature of the fatty acids in coconut oil is that they can reduce your appetite.
This may be related to the way in which fats are metabolized, since ketones may have an appetite-reducing effect (9).
In one study, variable amounts of medium and long chain triglycerides were fed to 6 healthy men.
Men who ate more MCT ate 256 fewer calories per day, on average (10).
Another study in 14 healthy men found that those who ate more MCTs at breakfast ate fewer calories at lunch (11).
These studies were small and only performed for short periods of time. If this effect persists in the long term, it could help reduce body weight over a period of several years.
Summary: The fatty acids in coconut oil can significantly reduce appetite, which can reduce body weight in the long term.
6. Fatty acids in coconuts can reduce seizures
Currently, a diet called ketogenic (very low in carbohydrates and very high in fats) is being studied to treat various disorders.
The most well-known therapeutic application of this diet is the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy in children (12).
This diet consists of eating very few carbohydrates and large amounts of fat, which leads to much higher concentrations of ketones in the blood.
For some reason, diet drastically reduces the rate of seizures in epileptic children, even in those who have not been successful with multiple different types of medications.
Because the fatty acids in coconut oil are sent to the liver and converted to ketones, they are often used in epileptic patients to induce ketosis and, at the same time, allow a little more carbohydrate in the diet (13, 14) .
Summary:MCTs in coconut oil can increase the concentration of ketone bodies in the blood, which can help reduce seizures in epileptic children.
7. Coconut oil can increase good HDL cholesterol
Coconut oil contains natural saturated fats that increase the good HDL cholesterol in your body. They can also help convert bad LDL cholesterol into a less harmful form.
By increasing HDL, many experts believe that coconut oil could be good for heart health compared to many other fats.
In one study in 40 women, coconut oil reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL compared with soybean oil (15).
Another study in 116 patients showed that a diet program that included coconut oil raised the levels of good HDL cholesterol (16).
Summary: Some studies have shown that coconut oil can raise levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood, which is related to better metabolic health and a lower risk of heart disease.
8. Coconut oil can protect your skin, your hair and your dental health
Coconut oil has many uses that have nothing to do with eating it.
Many people use it for cosmetic purposes and to improve the health and appearance of their skin and hair.
Studies in individuals with dry skin show that coconut oil can improve the moisture content of the skin. It can also reduce the symptoms of eczema (17, 18).
Coconut oil can also protect against hair damage and one study shows the effectiveness of a weak sunscreen that blocks approximately 20% of the sun's ultraviolet rays (19, 20)
Another application is to use it as a mouth rinse in a process called oil extraction, which can kill some of the harmful bacteria in the mouth, improve dental health and reduce bad breath (21, 22, 23).
Summary: Coconut oil can also be applied topically, with studies showing that it is effective as a humectant for the skin and protects against hair damage.
9. Fatty acids in coconut oil can improve brain function in Alzheimer's patients
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia worldwide and occurs mainly in the elderly.
In Alzheimer's patients, there appears to be a reduced ability to use glucose to obtain 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 the symptoms of Alzheimer's (24).
In a 2006 study, the consumption of medium chain triglycerides led to an improvement in brain function in patients with milder forms of Alzheimer's disease (25).
However, keep in mind that the research is still early and there is no evidence to suggest that coconut oil itself helps with Alzheimer's disease.
Summary: Preliminary studies suggest that medium-chain triglycerides can increase ketone levels in the blood, supplying energy to Alzheimer's brain cells and relieving symptoms.
10. Coconut oil can help you lose fat, especially harmful abdominal fat
Since coconut oil can reduce appetite and increase fat burning, it makes sense that it can also help you lose weight.
Coconut oil seems to be especially effective in reducing abdominal fat, which lodges in the abdominal cavity and around the organs (4).
This is the most dangerous fat of all and is highly associated with many chronic Western diseases.
The circumference of the waist is easily measured and is a great marker of the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity.
In a study of 40 women with abdominal obesity, supplementation with 30 ml (2 tablespoons) of coconut oil per day led to a significant reduction in BMI and waist circumference over a 12-week period (15).
Another study in 20 obese men observed a reduction in waist circumference of 1.1 inches (2.86 cm) after 4 weeks of 30 ml (2 tablespoons) of coconut oil per day (26).
Coconut oil is still high in calories, so you should not add a ton to your diet. But replacing some of your other cooking fats with coconut oil could have a small weight loss benefit.
11. Something else?
If you want to buy coconut oil, then there is an excellent selection on Amazon with thousands of customer comments that are fun to navigate.
It is also available at most health food stores.
To get the impressive health benefits described in the article, be sure to choose organic virgin coconut oil, not refined things.
This is really the tip of the iceberg. People are using coconut oil for all kinds of things with excellent results.
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