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Prescription 2015: Use More Coconut

December 16, 2015 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Hard to believe another year has passed so quickly, but 2015 is swiftly winding down. But, before ushering in 2016, I’d like to offer up one last healthy prescription. Long time readers of this site and my Twitter followers know that I’ve been on the coconut bandwagon for quite some time. This once maligned food and ingredient is now considered conditionally healthy by many health experts. Still, there are enough dissenting voices in the alternative and mainstream media to stimulate uncertainty in the minds of some. Today, I hope to put those unconvinced minds at ease when it comes to the enjoyment and health benefits of coconut.

Two recent reviews summarize an extensive list of medicinal properties relating to Cocos nucifera (aka coconut) consumption. The scientifically documented attributes of this tropical fruit include antimicrobial, antioxidant, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective and neprhoprotective activity – heart, liver and kidney protection. Another promising avenue of research suggests that medium chain triglycerides, specific fatty acids found in coconut oil, may “be beneficial to people developing or already with memory impairment, as in Alzheimer’s disease”.

It is well established that poor cardiometabolic health is a contributing factor for age-related cognitive decline and all cause mortality. Four publications from 2015 reveal that coconut ingredients are both effective and safe in terms of reducing risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. One of the trials found that a diet enriched with virgin coconut oil (VCO), just under 1 tablespoon daily, promoted greater losses in body fat and waist circumference compared to a VCO-free diet. The addition of coconut oil also resulted in increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol. A separate experiment in a group of overweight women reports that adding coconut flour, 26 grams/day, to a standard weight loss diet reduces blood sugar and total cholesterol above and beyond a hypocaloric diet alone.

You may have noticed that many oral health and skin products now include VCO as a therapeutic component. This too is supported in the scientific literature. Current studies inform that the topical application of VCO is a reliable way to gently moisturize and protect skin integrity. This was proven by applying VCO to preterm infants who were at high risk for infection and poor skin barrier function. On the oral health front, a pilot study recently discovered that “pulling” or swishing with coconut oil helps manage gum disease by counteracting plaque formation and the resulting plaque induced gingivitis. Prior research suggests this improvement may be due to a reduction in pathogenic microorganisms when coconut oil is directly applied to gum tissue.

In closing, I want to share two coconut-centric tips: 1) If you fry food on occasion, consider using virgin coconut oil. The naturally occurring antioxidants and saturated fats in VCO make it much more stable than other oils commonly used in frying; 2) Analysis presented in the January 2015 issue of the Journal of Food Science explains that canned coconut milk significantly oxidizes during its normal shelf life. Therefore, I now believe it’s best to make your own coconut milk by blending or shaking organic coconut cream with purified water. It’s a very straightforward process. Simply add your desired amount of coconut cream to warm-to-hot, purified water and dissolve it thoroughly. Add vanilla extract or other flavor enhancers and store your homemade “milk” in the refrigerator to ensure freshness. Last, but not least, I prefer coconut butters that are sold in glass jars to avoid the possibility of BPA transference from cans or plastic linings. Enjoy!

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Cocos Nucifera (L.) (Arecaceae): A Phytochemical & Pharmacological (link)

Study 2 – Role of Dietary Coconut for the Prevention & Treatment of Alzheimer’s (link)

Study 3 – Evidence of a Cumulative Effect of Cardiometabolic Disorders at (link)

Study 4 – Association of Cardiometabolic Multimorbidity With Mortality (link)

Study 5 – Virgin Olive Oil, Palm Olein & Coconut Oil Diets Do Not Raise Cell (link)

Study 6 – An Ecological Study for Sri Lanka About Health Effects of Coconut (link)

Study 7 – Virgin Coconut Oil and its Potential Cardioprotective Effects (link)

Study 8 – A Coconut Extra Virgin Oil-Rich Diet Increases HDL Cholesterol (link)

Study 9 – Effect of Hypoenergetic Diet Combined w/ Consumption of Coconut (link)

Study 10 – Topical Oil Application & Trans-Epidermal Water Loss in Preterm (link)

Study 11 – Effect of Emollient Therapy on Clinical Outcomes in Preterm (link)

Study 12 – Effect of Coconut Oil in Plaque Related Gingivitis – A Preliminary (link)

Study 13 – Effect of Oil Gum Massage Therapy on Common Pathogenic Oral (link)

Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) Exerts Antioxidant & Antistress Activity in Mice

Source: Exp Ther Med. 2015 Jan; 9(1): 39–42. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink, Heart Health

10 Comments & Updates to “Prescription 2015: Use More Coconut”

  1. JP Says:

    Updated 12/17/15:


    Nutr Hosp. 2015 Dec 1;32(n06):2822-2827.


    BACKGROUND: Alzheimer’s dementia is the most prevalent nowadays. As for treatment, there is no definitive cure drug, thus new therapies are needed. In this regard the medium chain triglycerides are a direct source of cellular energy and can be a nonpharmacological alternative to the neuronal death for lack of it, that occurs in Alzheimer patients.

    OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the impact of coconut oil in the development of Alzheimer’s dementia, in any degree of dementia. Also determine whether this improvement influences within variables such as sex and suffering or not Type II Diabetes Mellitus.

    MATERIAL AND METHODS: A prospective study was conducted in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia, with a control and an intervention group which was administered 40 ml/day of extra virgin coconut oil. The parameters evaluated were the mini test scores Lobo cognitive test, pre and post intervention in both groups.

    RESULTS: It was observed in subjects taking the product, a statistically significant increase in test score MECWOLF and therefore an improvement in cognitive status, improving especially women’s, those without diabetes mellitus type II, and severe patients.

    CONCLUSION: This study, although preliminary, demonstrated the positive influence of coconut oil at the cognitive level of patients with Alzheimer’s, this improvement being dependent on sex, presence or absence of diabetes and degree of dementia.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Updated 04/15/16:


    Appl Biochem Biotechnol. 2016 Apr 6.

    An Overview of Phytoconstituents, Biotechnological Applications, and Nutritive Aspects of Coconut (Cocos nucifera).

    Cocos nucifera is one of the highest nutritional and medicinal value plants with various fractions of proteins which play a major role in several biological applications such as anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-neoplastic, anti-parasitic, insecticidal, and leishmanicidal activities. This review is focused on several biotechnological, biomedical aspects of various solvent extracts collected from different parts of coconut and the phytochemical constituents which are present in it. The results obtained from this source will facilitate most of the researchers to focus their work toward the process of diagnosing diseases in future.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 04/15/16:


    Scientifica (Cairo). 2016;2016:7061587.

    Comparison of Antimicrobial Activity of Chlorhexidine, Coconut Oil, Probiotics, and Ketoconazole on Candida albicans Isolated in Children with Early Childhood Caries: An In Vitro Study.

    Background. Early childhood caries (ECC) is associated with early colonisation and high levels of cariogenic microorganisms. With C. albicans being one of those, there is a need to determine the effectiveness of various chemotherapeutic agents against it. The study is aimed at isolating Candida species in children with ECC and at studying the antifungal effect of coconut oil, probiotics, Lactobacillus, and 0.2% chlorhexidine on C. albicans in comparison with ketoconazole. Materials and Methods. Samples were collected using sterile cotton swabs, swabbed on the tooth surfaces from children with ECC of 3 to 6 yrs and streaked on Sabouraud dextrose agar (HI Media) plates and incubated in a 5% CO2 enriched atmosphere at 37°C for 24 hours. Candida was isolated and its susceptibility to probiotics, chlorhexidine, ketoconazole, and coconut oil was determined using Disc Diffusion method. Results. The mean zone of inhibition for chlorhexidine was 21.8 mm, whereas for coconut oil it was 16.8 mm, for probiotics it was 13.5 mm, and for ketoconazole it was 22.3 mm. The difference between the groups was not statistically significant (Chi-square value 7.42, P value 0.06). Conclusion. Chlorhexidine and coconut oil have shown significant antifungal activity which is comparable with ketoconazole.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 05/17/16:


    Nutrients 2016, 8(5), 281

    Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Health: The Potential Beneficial Effects of a Medium Chain Triglyceride Diet in Obese Individuals

    Abstract: Obesity and associated metabolic complications, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and type 2 diabetes (T2D), are in constant increase around the world. While most obese patients show several metabolic and biometric abnormalities and comorbidities, a subgroup of patients representing 3% to 57% of obese adults, depending on the diagnosis criteria, remains metabolically healthy. Among many other factors, the gut microbiota is now identified as a determining factor in the pathogenesis of metabolically unhealthy obese (MUHO) individuals and in obesity-related diseases such as endotoxemia, intestinal and systemic inflammation, as well as insulin resistance. Interestingly, recent studies suggest that an optimal healthy-like gut microbiota structure may contribute to the metabolically healthy obese (MHO) phenotype. Here, we describe how dietary medium chain triglycerides (MCT), previously found to promote lipid catabolism, energy expenditure and weight loss, can ameliorate metabolic health via their capacity to improve both intestinal ecosystem and permeability. MCT-enriched diets could therefore be used to manage metabolic diseases through modification of gut microbiota.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:


    J Contemp Dent Pract. 2016 Jan 1;17(1):38-41.

    The Effect of Coconut Oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans Count in Saliva in Comparison with Chlorhexidine Mouthwash.

    OBJECTIVES: Oil pulling is an age-old practice that has gained modern popularity in promoting oral and systemic health. The scientific verification for this practice is insufficient. Thus, this study evaluated the effect of coconut oil pulling on the count of Streptococcus mutans in saliva and to compare its efficacy with that of Chlorhexidine mouthwash: in vivo. The null hypothesis was that coconut oil pulling has no effect on the bacterial count in saliva.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: A randomized controlled study was planned and 60 subjects were selected. The subjects were divided into three groups, Group A: Oil pulling, Group B: Chlorhexidine, and Group C: Distilled water. Group A subjects rinsed mouth with 10 ml of coconut oil for 10 minutes. Group B subjects rinsed mouth with 5 ml Chlorhexidine mouthwash for 1 minute and Group C with 5 ml distilled water for 1 minute in the morning before brushing. Saliva samples were collected and cultured on 1st day and after 2 weeks from all subjects. Colonies were counted to compare the efficacy of coconut oil and Chlorhexidine with distilled water.

    RESULTS: Statistically significant reduction in S. mutans count was seen in both the coconut oil pulling and Chlorhexidine group.

    CONCLUSION: Oil pulling can be explored as a safe and effective alternative to Chlorhexidine.

    CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Edible oil-pulling therapy is natural, safe and has no side effects. Hence, it can be considered as a preventive therapy at home to maintain oral hygiene.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 08/22/16


    Indian Heart J. 2016 Jul-Aug;68(4):498-506.

    A randomized study of coconut oil versus sunflower oil on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with stable coronary heart disease.

    BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE: Coronary artery disease (CAD) and its pathological atherosclerotic process are closely related to lipids. Lipids levels are in turn influenced by dietary oils and fats. Saturated fatty acids increase the risk for atherosclerosis by increasing the cholesterol level. This study was conducted to investigate the impact of cooking oil media (coconut oil and sunflower oil) on lipid profile, antioxidant mechanism, and endothelial function in patients with established CAD.

    DESIGN AND METHODS: In a single center randomized study in India, patients with stable CAD on standard medical care were assigned to receive coconut oil (Group I) or sunflower oil (Group II) as cooking media for 2 years. Anthropometric measurements, serum, lipids, Lipoprotein a, apo B/A-1 ratio, antioxidants, flow-mediated vasodilation, and cardiovascular events were assessed at 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years.

    RESULTS: Hundred patients in each arm completed 2 years with 98% follow-up. There was no statistically significant difference in the anthropometric, biochemical, vascular function, and in cardiovascular events after 2 years.

    CONCLUSION: Coconut oil even though rich in saturated fatty acids in comparison to sunflower oil when used as cooking oil media over a period of 2 years did not change the lipid-related cardiovascular risk factors and events in those receiving standard medical care.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 03/10/17:


    J Med Food. 2017 Mar 9.

    The Impact of Virgin Coconut Oil and High-Oleic Safflower Oil on Body Composition, Lipids, and Inflammatory Markers in Postmenopausal Women.

    This randomized crossover study compared the impact of virgin coconut oil (VCO) to safflower oil (SO) on body composition and cardiovascular risk factors. Twelve postmenopausal women (58.8 ± 3.7 year) consumed 30 mL VCO or SO for 28 days, with a 28-day washout. Anthropometrics included body weight and hip and waist circumference. Fat percent for total body, android and gynoid, fat mass, and lean mass were measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Women maintained their typical diet recording 28 days of food records during the study. Results were analyzed with SPSS v24 with significance at P ≤ .05. Comparisons are reported as paired t-test since no intervention sequence effect was observed. VCO significantly raised total cholesterol, TC (+18.2 ± 22.8 mg/dL), low-density lipoprotein (+13.5 ± 16.0 mg/dL), and high-density lipoprotein, HDL (+6.6 ± 7.5 mg/dL). SO did not significantly change lipid values. TC and HDL were significantly different between test oils. The TC/HDL ratio change showed a neutral effect of both VCO and SO. One person had adverse reactions to VCO and increased inflammation. VCO decreased IL-1β for each person who had a detected sample. The impact of VCO and SO on other cytokines varied on an individual basis. This was the first study evaluating the impact of VCO on body composition in Caucasian postmenopausal women living in the United States. Results are suggestive that individuals wishing to use coconut oil in their diets can do so safely, but more studies need to be conducted with larger sample sizes, diverse populations, and more specific clinical markers such as particle size.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 05/23/17:


    J Am Coll Nutr. 2017 May 16:1-5.

    Effect of a Diet Enriched with Fresh Coconut Saturated Fats on Plasma Lipids and Erythrocyte Fatty Acid Composition in Normal Adults.

    OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to compare the effects of increased saturated fatty acid (SFA) (provided by fresh coconut) versus monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) intake (provided by a combination of groundnuts and groundnut oil) on plasma lipids and erythrocyte fatty acid (EFA) composition in healthy adults.

    MATERIAL AND METHODS: Fifty-eight healthy volunteers, randomized into 2 groups, were provided standardized diet along with 100 g fresh coconut or groundnuts and groundnut oil combination for 90 days in a Yoga University. Fasting blood samples were collected before and after the intervention period for the measurement of plasma lipids and EFA profile.

    RESULTS: Coconut diet increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels significantly. In contrast, the groundnut diet decreased total cholesterol (TC), mainly due to a decrease in HDL levels. There were no differences in the major SFA of erythrocytes in either group. However, coconut consumption resulted in an increase in C14:0 and C24:0 along with a decrease in levels of C18:1 n9 (oleic acid). There was a significant increase in levels of C20:3 n6 (dihomo-gamma linolenic acid, DGLA).

    CONCLUSIONS: Consumption of SFA-rich coconut for 3 months had no significant deleterious effect on erythrocytes or lipid-related factors compared to groundnut consumption. On the contrary, there was an increase in the anti-atherogenic HDL levels and anti-inflammatory precursor DGLA in erythrocyte lipids. This suggests that coconut consumption may not have any deleterious effects on cardiovascular risk in normal subjects.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 08/18/17:


    J Diet Suppl. 2017 Aug 17:1-13.

    Dietary Supplementation with Virgin Coconut Oil Improves Lipid Profile and Hepatic Antioxidant Status and Has Potential Benefits on Cardiovascular Risk Indices in Normal Rats.

    Research findings that suggest beneficial health effects of dietary supplementation with virgin coconut oil (VCO) are limited in the published literature. This study investigated the in vivo effects of a 5-week VCO-supplemented diet on lipid profile, hepatic antioxidant status, hepatorenal function, and cardiovascular risk indices in normal rats. Rats were randomly divided into 3 groups: 1 control and 2 treatment groups (10% and 15% VCO-supplemented diets) for 5 weeks. Serum and homogenate samples were used to analyze lipid profile, hepatorenal function markers, hepatic activities of antioxidant enzymes, and malondialdehyde level. Lipid profile of animals fed VCO diets showed significant reduction in total cholesterol (TC), triglyceride (TG), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels; high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level increased significantly (p < .05) compared to control; and there were beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk indices. The level of malondialdehyde (MDA), a lipid peroxidation marker, remarkably reduced and activities of hepatic antioxidant enzymes-superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione peroxidase (GPx)-were markedly increased in VCO diet-fed rats. The VCO diet significantly modulated creatinine, sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), chloride (Cl-), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) compared to control. The findings suggest a beneficial effect of VCO on lipid profile, renal status, hepatic antioxidant defense system, and cardiovascular risk indices in rats. Be well! JP

  10. JP Says:

    Updated 06/29/18:


    J Nutr Metab. 2018 May 22;2018:2630565.

    The Effect of Medium Chain Triglycerides on Time to Nutritional Ketosis and Symptoms of Keto-Induction in Healthy Adults: A Randomised Controlled Clinical Trial.

    Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are ketogenic and might reduce adverse effects of keto-induction and improve time to ketosis and the tolerability of very low carbohydrate diets. This study investigates whether MCT supplementation improves time to nutritional ketosis (NK), mood, and symptoms of keto-induction. We compared changes in beta-hydroxybutyrate (BOHB), blood glucose, symptoms of keto-induction, and mood disturbance, in 28 healthy adults prescribed a ketogenic diet, randomised to receive either 30 ml of MCT, or sunflower oil as a control, three times per day, for 20 days. The primary outcome measured was the achievement of NK (≥0.5 mmol·L-1 BOHB). Participants also completed a daily Profile of Mood States and keto-induction symptom questionnaire. MCT resulted in higher BOHB at all time points and faster time to NK, a result that failed to reach significance. Symptoms of keto-induction resulted from both diets, with a greater magnitude in the control group, except for abdominal pain, which occurred with greater frequency and severity in the MCT-supplemented diet. There was a possibly beneficial effect on symptoms by MCT, but the effect on mood was unclear. Based on these results, MCTs increase BOHB compared with LCT and reduce symptoms of keto-induction. It is unclear whether MCTs significantly improve mood or time to NK.

    Be well!


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