The most recent craze surrounding coconut oil has been the traditional Ayurvedic practice, oil pulling. Consumers have flocked to supermarkets and health stores to get their hands on one of oral health’s best kept secrets, but the benefits of this antibacterial and anti-fungal super ingredient doesn’t stop at your teeth. Coconut oil is the latest food cure-all that can have profound positive effects on your overall health.
Coconut oil is a heart-healthy food that can help keep your body running smoothly and efficiently in a number of ways. The oil contains a combination of fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which contain antioxidant properties and help in the absorption of other minerals, according to Healthline. Here are the various ways it can impact your health:
1. Lowers Cholesterol
This superfood is loaded with saturated fats that actually raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease. Coconut oil contains an unusual blend of short and MCFAs, specifically lauric, capric, and myristic acids that are linked to special health benefits, such as reducing cholesterol.
“Interestingly enough, the boosting of HDLs is actually greater than the boost of Total Cholesterol or Total LDL. Ultimately, healthy clinical ratios like Total Cholesterol:HDL and Triglyceride: HDL, LDL:HDL improve,” Dr. Alex Reinhardt, a chiropractic physician and owner of Arizona Nutrition Center in Goodyear, Ariz., told Medical Daily in an email.
This corresponds to a 2009 study published in the journal Lipids, which found coconut oil reduced Total and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL, compared to soybean oil.
2. Weight Loss Aid
The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil can speed up energy usage compared to other fats. The MCTs in coconut oil, according to Rinehart, digest as fast as sugar in the body.
“They are used up preferentially as opposed to other fuel sources and so don’t get added to fat cells or ultimately contribute to weight gain,” Rinehart said. Since there is a delayed digestion in the liver, they boost metabolism.
A 2011 study published in National Center for Biotechnology Information Pharmacology found a reduction in waist circumference of 1.1 inches after four weeks of 1 ounce of coconut oil per day. The participants did not exercise or go under a restrictive diet. Rather they lost a substantial amount of abdominal fat by adding coconut oil to their diet.
3. Moisturizes Skin
Coconut oil can be used as a skin moisturizer because of its vitamin E content and its positive antioxidant action in the body. This helps stop the damage to the tissues in the body since oxidation is a major source of skin aging.
Dr. Cynthia Bailey, a dermatologist in Sebastopol, Calif., and diplomat of the American Board of Dermatology told Medical Daily in an email, “Coconut has surprising benefits when applied to the skin as a moisturizer. It can reduce the harmful skin germ called staph aureus.”
Its anti-microbial properties can also be useful with things like acne, eczema, psoriasis, and staph infections. A 2004 study published in the journal Dermatitis found coconut oil can improve the moisture and lipid content of people with dry skin.
4. Better Brain Function
The MCTs in coconut oil provides a “secondary fuel source” aside from glucose that the brain and nervous system can function on. High sugar can contribute to neurological problems, including Alzheimer’s, which has been theorized as a “type 3 diabetes,” according to Rinehart. In Alzheimer’s, the brain effectively blocks glucose uptake, so it is fuel-deprived, which can lead to general neurodegeneration.
The consumption of MCTs has led to an improvement in brain function in patients with milder forms of Alzheimer’s, according to a 2004 study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging. Higher ketone values — derivatives from fat that are the only other fuel source aside from glucose the brain can function on — were associated with greater improvement in Alzheimer’s patients. Coconut oil’s MCTs may provide therapeutic benefits for memory-impaired adults.
5. Kills Bacteria, Viruses, And Fungi
Coconut oil has lauric acid, which is believed to have anti-fungal, anti-viral, and antibacterial properties. This makes it helpful with various types of infections.
Dr. Joe Alton survival medicine expert, fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Congress of OB/GYN, and co-author of the survival medical guide, a guide for when help is NOT on the way, told Medical Daily in an email, “The saturated fats present in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties and help in dealing with various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion.”
A 2000 study published in the Journal of Bacteriology found lauric acid and monolaurin can kill pathogens like the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Alton added coconut oil helps in the absorption of other nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.