The Keto diet is again boosting the view of coconut oil for brain fog
Few food-based ingredients have ping-ponged throughout history — bouncing back and forth between being called good and bad — the way coconut oil has.
At times, this ingredient has been touted a health food with strong enough medicinal properties to cure many ails. Other times, this oil extracted from coconut palm trees is highly criticized for its negative health effects due to being so high in saturated fat.
This leaves many consumers and health care professionals alike confused as to whether this particular oil is good or not. Answering this question as comprehensively as possible requires not only looking at its potential pros and cons, but more so the pros and cons that have been proven by science.
Scientifically proven coconut oil ‘pros’
Many studies have found that coconut oil can provide a variety of health benefits. Among them are:
- Lower “bad” cholesterol levels. Though total cholesterol is important, health care professionals are now urging patients to pay close attention to their LDL (low-density lipoproteins) levels as this is the type of cholesterol responsible for buildup in the arteries. Some studies, like one animal-based study published in Clinical Biochemistry, have found that 45 days of virgin coconut oil consumption lowers LDL levels while increasing HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, at the same time.
- Decreased abdominal obesity. Some health experts purport that coconut oil can help improve weight loss results. One study confirms this, indicating that participants who took 30 mL of coconut oil for 12 weeks had a greater reduction in weight circumference than those who took the same amount of soy bean oil, though it had relatively little effect on body mass index, or BMI, as both groups experienced a reduction in this piece of data.
- Greater antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help protect cells against disease-causing free radicals. One study in Food Chemistry found that, when compared to other types of oils, namely copra and groundnut oil, coconut oil is “superior in antioxidant action.”
- Reduced inflammation. While inflammation is a natural and healthy response to injury and disease, too much inflammation can have the opposite effect. Some studies have found that virgin coconut oil acts as an anti-inflammatory, providing analgesic effects at the same time.
- Healthier hair. Salons charge big money for oil-based services designed to improve hair health. Yet, some do-it-yourselfers are using coconut oils at home as research has found that, when compared to sunflower and mineral oil, this oil offers the most protection from combing damage because it is better able to penetrate the hair shaft.
- Softer skin. Contending with dry, itchy skin can be both physically and mentally challenging. Fortunately, coconut oil may be able to help as a few studies, such as one conducted by the Philippines-based Makati Medical Center’s Department of Dermatology, have found that when it is applied twice a day for two weeks, it offers “significant improvement” in skin hydration levels.
- Cleaner air. Some studies have even found that combining coconut oil with conventional diesel oil can also reduce the release of certain exhaust emissions. The end result is cleaner air and lower levels of environmental pollution.
- Enhanced treatment effect from pesticide poisoning. Aluminum phosphide is a common ingredient in pesticides, and one that can be life-threatening for humans. In one case, a 28-year-old male was admitted to the hospital with aluminum phosphide intoxication. Coconut oil was part of his treatment plan and researchers concluded that it had a “positive clinical significance.”
- Coconut oil for brain fog. Scientists have proven through testing that Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT), present in coconut oil, can improve memory for Alzheimer patients. In a 2004 study, elderly subjects took either MCT oil or a placebo at random. After consuming MCT oil, subjects who had symptoms of Alzheimer’s showed an immediate improvement on a paragraph recall memory test.
Coconut oil ‘cons’ based on research
On the flip side, other pieces of research haven’t held coconut oil in such a positive light. Here are a few to consider:
- A less-effective cholesterol reducer than other options. One study published in The Journal of Nutrition noted that fish oil was more effective at lowering whole plasma triacylglycerol, cholesterol, and phospholipid concentrations than coconut oil. A 50/50 mixture of the two was also more effective than coconut oil alone.
- Not transferable to Western diets. Some researchers also contend that, while consuming coconut flesh or juices doesn’t lead to negative cardiovascular effects, because dietary patterns are different in a typical Western diet, these same findings are not transferable to this demographic. For this reason, coconut oil should be replaced with cis unsaturated fats instead, some of which include grapeseed oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil.
The final verdict
So, is coconut oil good or bad?
Since most of the studies finding that coconut oil involve the use of virgin coconut oil, it appears that this particular type of coconut oil may offer some distinctive health benefits.
That said, if the reason for using the coconut oil is to lower high cholesterol levels, other options — such as fish oil — may be a better option.
Additionally, the whole diet needs to be considered when deciding whether coconut oil is going to be helpful or harmful when it comes to health as it can be both depending on other types of fats consumed.