You put in on your toast, mix it in your smoothies, use it as lip balm, and if you’re following the latest coffee craze, you even add it to your cup of joe to make it "bulletproof."
We are talking about coconut oil.
Even though the research on coconut oil is still in the preliminary stages, there have been some positive links between its use and several health benefits. According to WebMd, coconut oil has been associated with a lower risk of heart attack, it may support weight loss, and may increase good cholesterol.
Applying coconut oil to dry skin can also enhance skin moisture, and even help with psoriasis management. Furthermore, coconut oil can withstand the heat, making it a better cooking option.
What Makes Coconut Oil Different?
Coconut oil is made of 90 percent saturated fat, yet according to the Huffington Post, half of virgin coconut oil’s saturated fat is actually lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride that has a number of health promoting properties.
Medium-chain triglycerides found in coconut oil are more easily digested and converted to energy. This means that it could be a better source of quick energy, especially for athletes.
However, due to its high saturated fat content, coconut oil could also be problematic for long-term heart health, according to Harvard nutrition professor Dr. Walter C. Willet, as quoted on the Huffington Post.
Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease
Recently, there have been some claims that coconut oil could be used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. But could this exotic oil really help protect our brain power?
The answer is: Maybe. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to back up these claims.
According to the Huffington Post, the theory is that the nerve cells in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients are unable to use glucose to produce energy, causing them to become deprived of nourishment. When that is the case, coconut oil — due to its content of medium-chain triglycerides — might act as an alternative energy source and provide nerve cells with adequate energy to maintain their functioning.
A study where children with epilepsy were successfully treated when placed on a ketogenic diet gives hope to such claims. In a ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are strictly limited and replaced by high fat intake. This diet forces the body to use fats instead of carbohydrates as the primary energy source.
It needs to be strictly followed, as the body will always prefer glucose over fats to produce energy. Thus, simply adding coconut oil to one’s diet will not make brain cells readily prefer it as their primary energy source.
On the other hand, a diet that is so high in fats could lead to high cholesterol levels, which is a risk factor for stroke, heart disease and dementia.
There is also evidence against the use of coconut oil in Alzheimer’s patients, as it could indirectly increase the levels of a protein called acetylcholinesterase. According to Huffington Post, current treatments of Alzheimer’s actually work to inhibit the acetylcholinesterase protein, so coconut oil could turn out to be detrimental for Alzheimer’s patients.
In conclusion, further scientific research is required to conclude whether coconut oil can be beneficial to Alzheimer’s treatment.
We Might Get Answers by 2017
There is a current clinical trial being carried out in the United States, which should give us some evidence on the effects of coconut oil on people with Alzheimer’s disease. The results of this trial are due to be announced in 2017.
Coconut oil. WebMD. Retrieved on November 15, 2015.
Is Coconut Oil Really All It's Cracked Up To Be? Huffington Post. Retrieved on November 15, 2015.
Science behind the headlines: How to reduce your risk and other popular topics. Alzheimer’s Society. Retrieved on November 15, 2015.
Reviewed November 18, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith