Sometimes coconut oil seems to be “the food of the century” when you think of all the health benefits it has according to popular nutrition, fitness & well-being sources.
For instance, this substance is marketed as:
- A popular ingredient in the fancy keto diet (check out the famous bulletproof coffee)
- A natural hair and skincare product
- An allegedly safe alternative to vegetable oil for cooking
- A cognitive booster
The list goes on and on, but hey: how about some solid scientific proof to back these claims? Keep reading to learn 21 fabulous coconut oil health benefits with working links to the actual studies if you’re in the mood to get all sciency.
19 scientifically confirmed health benefits of coconut oil
- Improves cholesterol status
First and foremost, coconut oil is great for your cholesterol: animal studies suggest that 45 days of taking this food result in lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, and VLDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels. Also, it simultaneously increases HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels after as much as just 8 weeks of intake, confirmed in human trials!
- Helps to lose weight and decreases waist circumference
Studies indicate that coconut oil has a direct positive effect on body weight and waist circumference, especially in patients suffering from coronary heart disease (and thus being in particular need of such changes). Most likely, this is due to the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) present in coconut oil, as it was confirmed that taking about 15 to 30 g of them per day can increase daily energy expenditure by at least 5%.
- Improves insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is a key component of diabetes: the more severe it is, the harder it will be to control blood sugar levels, leading to an even worse resistance. Luckily, MCTs can improve insulin resistance, so coconut oil is a fabulous dietary supplement for anyone fighting diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
- May improve cognitive performance by generating extra ketones
The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil are a great source of ketones, special biochemical that are fabulous sources of energy for the brain (some experts even say they are more effective than glucose). In turn, this leads to improved cognitive activity and significant improvements in patients with such conditions as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
- May directly fight back Alzheimer’s disease
One of the key roles in the development of Alzheimer’s disease is played by amyloid-beta, a pathologic protein that is synthesized in the patient’s brain and impairs its function. Coconut oil seems to protect neurons from the action of this amyloid and is, therefore, a promising option of dietary support for patients with Alzheimer’s.
- May have anti-seizure properties
Coconut oil is rich in capric and caprylic acid, which are specific types of MCTs. Besides having all the usual MCT properties, these specific acids have confirmed anticonvulsant (anti-seizure) properties in animal models, suggesting that coconut oil could be a great dietary supplement for people who suffer from seizure episodes.
- Improves physical performance
Actually, MCTs are a fabulous source of energy not only for your brain but for the whole body as well, and this is clearly shown in exercise endurance studies. Specifically, MCTs boost the effectiveness of the mitochondria (the “powerhouses” of the cell), optimizing energy expenditure and thus improving physical performance.
- Has powerful anti-inflammatory properties
Coconut oil is rich in polyphenols, natural antioxidants that can significantly reduce inflammation. For instance, a recent study confirmed that coconut oil polyphenols effectively reduce joint swelling in an arthritis animal model, soothe inflammation markers, and alleviate cellular damage.
- Prevents bone loss
Animal studies report that coconut oil supplementation is effective in maintaining bone density and preventing osteoporosis in estrogen deficiency models. This could be exceptionally beneficial for postmenopausal women, as they often suffer from osteoporosis due to their age-related hormonal changes.
- May help to heal peptic ulcers
Animal studies have already confirmed the gastroprotective effect of coconut milk, meaning that it could help to heal the stomach’s lining. Since coconut milk and coconut oil are very similar in terms of composition (both are made from coconut meat), it’s safe to assume the latter could also have such an effect.
- Protects the liver from toxic damage
A recent animal study highlighted that coconut oil effectively alleviates toxic damage to the liver caused by a conventional antibiotic. After a single week of supplementation, the liver’s function was significantly improved, pointing out the hepatoprotective effect of this food.
- Effectively kills pathogenic bacteria on the skin
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid with powerful antimicrobial properties. For instance, it’s quite effective against Propionibacterium acnes, a bacterium that’s believed to be among the main causes of acne, so don’t hesitate to apply coconut oil topically to the skin! Another study revealed that coconut oil is effective even against Staphylococcus aureus, a nasty bug that often strikes in cases of atopic dermatitis.
- Has powerful antifungal properties
Coconut oil is effective not only in fighting bacteria but also in killing fungi as well. For example, it shows a great effect against Candida albicans, a fungus that has been consistently developing resistance to conventional drugs over the past decades.
- Naturally moisturizes the skin
Yep, one more reason to cover your skin in coconut oil. Studies indicate that this fabulous substance is fairly effective in moisturizing the skin in cases of mild to moderate xerosis (skin dryness), as well as increasing the protective lipid layer of the skin (thus preventing future dehydration).
- Accelerates healing of wounds
Most likely due to its high content of antioxidants, coconut oil enhances healing of wounds by preventing local oxidation, improving collagen synthesis, and stimulating the growth of new blood vessels to nourish the process of regeneration.
- Supports hair health & beauty
Coconut oil effectively prevents protein loss in BOTH damaged AND healthy hair thanks to the high affinity of lauric acid for hair proteins (and its ability to enter inside the hair shaft). This makes coconut oil one of the most effective pre- and post-wash natural haircare products ever!
- May kill certain kinds of cancer
As if its bactericidal and hair-supporting properties weren’t enough, lauric acid also has anti-cancer properties. Studies indicate that this fatty acid inhibits the proliferation of certain kinds of tumors (particularly colon, breast and endometrial cancer) and even induces cellular death in some of them.
- Supports during breast cancer chemotherapy and improves quality of life
A quite interesting study was conducted in 2014 among women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. The patients received 10 ml of coconut oil twice per day as a dietary supplement during their chemotherapy, and this significantly alleviated such dreadful side symptoms of cancer therapy like fatigue, sleep problems, loss of appetite and shortness of breath. In general, coconut oil supplementation also improved their quality of life scores and functional status.
- Reduces the impact of stress on the body
Animal models highlight that coconut oil supplementation increases the levels of antioxidants in the brain, reducing stress and soothing down the brain-adrenal axis – the physiological complex that’s actually responsible for the synthesis of stress hormones in the human body. And that’s with zero side effects whatsoever, contrary to such heavy anti-stress medications as antidepressants and sedatives!
Coconut oil really seems to be a wonderful superfood with countless benefits for anyone’s health – from metabolic support to bactericidal properties and even cognitive-enhancing potential.
However, keep in mind that it’s just a supplement: a well-balanced diet is still important for optimal effect, and so are regular physical exercises, proper hydration, and quality sleep.