How to take coconut oil for brain health

How to take coconut oil for brain health?

Coconut oil has recently gained popularity as a potential superfood for overall health and wellness. More specifically, emerging research suggests that incorporating coconut oil into your diet may offer unique benefits for brain health and cognition. This article explores the science behind using coconut oil to boost brain power and provides practical tips on how to take coconut oil for brain health.

Key Takeaways

  1. Coconut oil provides MCTs to support cognition.
  2. Early research is promising but more studies are needed.
  3. Consume 1-3 tablespoons daily, starting slowly.
  4. Purchase quality virgin coconut oil.
  5. Combine with overall healthy lifestyle habits.

Coconut oil’s unique composition of fatty acids and nutrients shows promise in supporting brain function, protecting against dementia and neurological diseases, and even alleviating symptoms in those already affected. While more rigorous scientific studies are still needed, current evidence and anecdotal reports have prompted many people to start taking coconut oil supplements or adding it to their diets. Read on to understand the basics of coconut oil, the mechanisms behind its brain-boosting potential, current scientific research, and how to safely use coconut oil for optimal brain health.

Understanding the Basics

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the meat of mature coconuts. It has been used for thousands of years in cooking, medicine, and cosmetics. Unlike most other vegetable oils, coconut oil is very high in saturated fats.

The composition of coconut oil: Fatty acids and their significance

Coconut oil contains a unique composition of fatty acids and nutrients:

Fatty Acid/NutrientFunction
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)Around 62-65% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are MCTs like lauric acid and caprylic acid. MCTs are efficiently metabolized by the body and have shown particular promise in supporting brain energy and function.
Lauric acidComprising over 45% of coconut oil, lauric acid has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that may contribute to neurological health.
Vitamin ECoconut oil contains a form of vitamin E that has antioxidant effects important for brain health.
KetonesCoconut oil MCTs are readily converted into ketones, an alternative brain fuel source that can be beneficial in certain conditions.

How can coconut oil benefit brain health?

The brain’s reliance on healthy fats

The brain relies heavily on a steady supply of healthy fats. Unlike other organs, the brain cannot efficiently use carbohydrates for energy. Instead, it requires a constant fuel source from fats called ketones [1]. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil are directly converted to ketones in the liver, providing an alternative brain fuel source to glucose [2]. This gives coconut oil a unique advantage for cognitive health.

How coconut oil’s MCTs benefit the brain

The brain relies heavily on fats for insulation, cell membranes, and signaling molecules. Coconut oil is uniquely positioned to support the brain by providing MCTs that:

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Additionally, the antiviral and antimicrobial properties of lauric acid may offer protective effects against neurological infections. Herpes simplex virus is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia [6]. Lauric acid disrupted the lipid envelope of herpes simplex virus in lab studies, preventing viral replication [7]. This demonstrates the multifaceted brain benefits of coconut oil’s unique fatty acid profile.

Research results suggest that coconut oil intake may improve brain health by directly activating ketogenesis in astrocytes and thereby providing fuel to neighboring neurons.
Lauric Acid Stimulates Ketone Body Production in the KT-5 Astrocyte Cell Line.

Scientific Studies and Evidence

So far, most studies on coconut oil and brain health have been conducted on animals or in small human trials. However, early research shows promising effects.

Research on coconut oil and Alzheimer’s disease

Several studies have examined coconut oil’s effects on Alzheimer’s patients, with some promising results:

Cognitive improvements in healthy individuals

While coconut oil shows promise for alleviating cognition issues in those already affected, several studies also suggest benefits for healthy individuals:

  • One study showed improved memory recall 60-90 minutes after consuming MCT oil compared to long-chain triglycerides.
  • In another study, healthy older adults taking MCT supplements for 24 weeks improved executive function and processing speed.
  • However, a recent review concluded that more rigorous, large-scale trials are still needed to substantiate cognitive benefits in normal healthy populations.

Mood and Stress: Coconut oil restored antioxidant status and reduced immobility in rats under stressful conditions, suggesting anti-anxiety effects [3]. It also alleviates oxidative stress in the brain [4].

Brain Injuries: Coconut oil repaired myelin sheath damage and reduced inflammation in animal models of traumatic brain injury (TBI) [5]. This demonstrates potential uses for recovery after concussion.

Stroke: Coconut oil prevented neuronal loss and improved motor function in rats after an induced stroke, indicating neuroprotective effects [6].

While results appear promising, longer-term and larger human trials are still needed. It’s unclear if coconut oil can reverse or prevent neurodegeneration on its own, though it shows potential as a supportive dietary addition.

Learn about the Healthy and Useful Benefits of Coconut Oil by Dr. Hansaji Yogendra

Dr. Hansaji Yogendra discusses the various benefits and applications of coconut oil, focusing on its role in dental health, cooking, and skincare. She offers insights into how to make the most of this versatile oil.

Dental Health through Oil Pulling

  • Coconut oil can be used as a mouthwash to detoxify and maintain dental health. This is known as oil pulling or Gandush.
  • It contains antioxidants that purify and keep the risk of infections at bay.
  • Swishing 2 spoons of coconut oil for 5-10 minutes can pull out bacteria and harmful germs, improving oral hygiene.

Cooking with Coconut Oil

  • Coconut oil is a healthy alternative for cooking as it can withstand high temperatures.
  • It helps in increasing good cholesterol and improves metabolism.
  • It can be a substitute for butter and aids in weight loss by accelerating fat burning.

Skincare and Haircare

  • Coconut oil hydrates the skin and hair
  • It is good for bone health and increases collagen to prevent skin diseases.
  • A combination of tea tree oil and coconut oil can help with hair loss and dry scalp.

Additional Tips

  • Coconut oil can be used for massaging as it is anti-inflammatory and soothes muscles.
  • It is advisable to use oils according to the region you live in and the season.
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What Type of Coconut Oil is Best for Brain Health?

The best type of coconut oil for brain health is virgin coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is the least processed form of coconut oil and retains the most nutrients, including antioxidants and polyphenols. These nutrients are thought to play a role in protecting the brain from damage and improving cognitive function.

According to the study “Antistress and antioxidant effects of virgin coconut oil in vivo” virgin coconut oil (VCO) has been found to reduce immobility time and restore oxidative stress in mice post-swim test, exhibit higher levels of brain antioxidants, lower levels of brain 5-hydroxytryptamine and reduced weight of the adrenal glands, and lower serum cholesterol, triglyceride, glucose and corticosterone levels, suggesting the potential value of VCO as an antistress functional oil.

Virgin coconut oil is also a good source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a type of fat that is easily digested and absorbed by the body. They can also be converted into ketones, which are an alternative energy source for the brain.

When choosing a virgin coconut oil, look for one that is cold-pressed and unrefined. This will ensure that the oil retains its nutrients.

How to Incorporate Coconut Oil into Your Diet

Starting with the right type: Virgin vs. refined coconut oil

Choose virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil, which is extracted using natural methods without high heat or chemicals. Refined versions undergo more processing that strips away some nutrients.

Experts suggest 1-3 tablespoons of coconut oil per day. Start with 1 tablespoon with meals and gradually increase over 2-3 weeks as tolerated.

Here are some easy ways to add it to your diet:

  • Use coconut oil for cooking eggs, meats, stir-fries, etc. Instead of butter on toast or vegetables.
  • Add to smoothies, coffee, or tea as a creamer.
  • Eat with the spoonful plain or with berries, bananas, etc.
  • Make homemade energy bars/balls with coconut oil, oats, nuts, and dried fruit.
  • Take coconut oil capsules if you don’t like the taste.

Opt for virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil, which is less processed and retains more antioxidants [7]. Start with a small amount like 1 teaspoon daily and gradually increase over 2 weeks to avoid digestive issues. Also, stay hydrated and eat fiber-rich foods to mitigate potential diarrhea or stomach discomfort.

Those taking blood thinners or seizure medications should consult a doctor before using coconut oil, which can increase medication absorption in some cases [8]. Discontinue use if you experience negative side effects or interactions with medications or other supplements.

Potential Side Effects and Precautions

While generally safe at moderate dietary intakes, coconut oil does have some potential side effects to be aware of:

  • Digestive issues like diarrhea or stomach cramps may occur, especially at high intakes. Reduce your dosage and/or the amount you increase weekly if this occurs [9]. Staying hydrated and eating high-fiber foods can help minimize discomfort.
  • High LDL cholesterol is possible, though the evidence is mixed. Monitor your cholesterol levels and adjust saturated fat intake if needed [10].
  • Allergic reactions are rare but possible if you have a coconut allergy. Discontinue use if any symptoms like rash, itching, or swelling occur.
  • Blood sugar impacts are unlikely at 1-3 tablespoons daily but monitor levels if diabetic, especially at higher intakes [11].
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As with any supplement, consult a doctor before using coconut oil if you have any ongoing health conditions or take medications regularly. While generally safe, coconut oil is not for everyone. Monitor your response closely.

Comparing to Other Brain-Boosting Oils

Coconut oil supplies direct energy, while fish oil provides anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Olive oil offers antioxidant support. A balance of different oils is recommended for overall brain health.

OilMain BenefitsConsiderations
Coconut oilProvides MCTs for ketone energy; anti-inflammatoryCan cause digestive issues
Fish oilOmega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation and support neuronsFishy aftertaste; mercury concerns with some fish
Olive oilAntioxidant polyphenols may improve learning and memoryLower smoke point; lacks MCTs

Fish Oil vs. Coconut Oil: Which is Better?

Both offer unique brain benefits. Fish oil provides essential omega-3s EPA and DHA. Coconut oil supplies MCTs for ketone energy. A balance provides optimal effects.

The Role of Olive Oil in Cognitive Health

Olive oil contains antioxidant polyphenols that may protect the brain and support cognition. However, it lacks the MCTs found in coconut oil.

Balancing Different Oils for Optimal Brain Health

A combination of oils can support overall brain structure, energy, inflammation, and antioxidant status. Rotate coconut, olive, avocado, and fish oils.


While coconut oil may provide unique cognitive benefits, it should be combined with overall healthy nutrition, regular exercise, stress management, quality sleep, social engagement, and mentally stimulating activities for the best brain health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How quickly can one see benefits from consuming coconut oil?

Some people notice subtle cognitive improvements within 1-2 weeks. Maximum benefits may take 2-3 months of consistent use.

Can children and pregnant women consume coconut oil for brain health?

Coconut oil is generally safe for children over 12 months old in small amounts. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to check with their doctors first.

Are there any brands of coconut oil recommended for brain health?

Quality brands like Viva Naturals, Garden of Life, and Nutiva contain organic extra virgin coconut oil optimal for cognitive benefits.

How should coconut oil be stored for maximum potency?

Store coconut oil in an airtight container away from heat and light. Refrigeration is ideal for prolonging freshness.

Does coconut oil help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Some studies suggest that the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil can help reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of coconut oil on these conditions.

How much coconut oil should I take for brain health?

The recommended dosage of coconut oil for brain health varies, but most experts suggest starting with 1-2 tablespoons per day. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or adding supplements.

What are the other health benefits of coconut oil?

Coconut oil has been found to have several health benefits, including improving heart health, boosting the immune system, promoting weight loss, and supporting oral health. It can also be used topically for skin and hair care.

Does coconut oil increase the risk of heart disease?

While coconut oil is high in saturated fat, studies have shown that it may actually help reduce the risk of heart disease. The type of fat found in coconut oil, such as medium-chain fatty acids, is metabolized differently in the body than long-chain fatty acids found in other fats.

How does coconut oil benefit heart health?

Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids that can increase the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in the body and improve the ratio of HDL to LDL (bad) cholesterol. This can help maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Can coconut oil be used as an energy source?

Yes, the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil can be quickly converted into energy by the body. This makes coconut oil a valuable source of energy, especially for those following a ketogenic or low-carb diet.

How does coconut oil support gut health?

Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that can help support a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. It may also promote better digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Can coconut oil help with weight loss?

Some studies have suggested that coconut oil can aid in weight loss by increasing metabolism and reducing appetite. However, it’s important to remember that weight loss is achieved through a combination of a healthy diet and regular physical activity.


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