The Coconut Oil Brain Health Connection
The human brain needs a continual supply of fuel. When this continual supply is interrupted brain cells begin to die. In the short-term, this can cause symptoms such as headaches, brain fog, & tiredness. Long-term exposure to environments that deplete sources of brain fuel from effectively getting into the cells leads to neurodegenerative diseases.
New research is showing that coconut oil can supply the brain with a very clean source of energy that prevents unwanted short-term symptoms and is effective at preventing and treating neurodegenerative disease states (1). This article will discuss the coconut oil brain health connection and how to use coconut fats to support your brain function.
Coconut Oil and Neurodegeneration:
In many neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, neurons in certain regions of the brain have become insulin resistant. Insulin is the necessary hormone that brings glucose into cells where it can be used for energy. This is diabetes in the brain.
When brain cells become resistant to insulin they are unable to get glucose and they become malnourished and begin to die. Because the brain is unable to lower circulating blood sugar levels these levels remain high.
High Blood Sugar and Brain Function:
High blood sugar is neurotoxic in that it binds with protein molecules to create advanced glycation end products (AGE’s) (2, 3, 4). These AGE’s dramatically increase oxidative stress levels in the body and have a particular affinity for damaging neuronal tissue (2). This combination of high blood sugar and low energy states within the brain cells is the perfect storm for massive brain cell death.
Coconut Oil is considered one of the best fuels for healthy brain function (5, 6). Outside of mother’s milk, coconut oil is nature’s richest source of medium chain trigylcerides (MCT’s). Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are not processed by your body in the same manner as long chain triglycerides. Normal fat metabolism depends on bile salts that have been released from your gallbladder before it can be broken down in your digestive system.
The coconut oil brain health connection is due to the impact of these coconut fats on stabilizing blood sugar and reducing inflammation in the brain. Using the coconut oil brain health connection to drive down brain related inflammation is extremely helpful at improving mental performance and reducing the risk of brain related disorders.
Coconut Creates Ketones to Fuel the Brain
MCT’s bypass bile metabolism and go directly to your liver where they are converted into ketones (7). The liver then immediately releases the ketones into the bloodstream where they are transported to the brain to be used as fuel. Research has shown that the ketone bodies produced by MCT’s provide a stable source of energy for the brain during periods of low blood sugar without the neurological risks associated with high blood sugar (8).
This is why ketones appear to be the preferred source of brain food in patients affected by diabetes or any neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, & Multiple Sclerosis, etc. (9, 12). One of the leading authorities on MCT research is Dr. Mary Newport.
She has shown that ketone bodies may help the brain recover from lack of oxygen induced brain death in newborns through adults. (10). Additionally, ketones can help the heart patient recover from a heart attack and they can affectively shrink cancerous tumors.
Coconut Boosts Brain Function:
Additional research has shown that regular MCT consumption in dogs with “age-related mental decline” increases the phospholipid and omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) content in the parietal cortex of the brain (11). Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish not coconut oil. The researchers believe that the presence of the MCT’s allowed omega 3’s to be liberated from fat stores & utilized in the brain where they are most needed to help form solid memory centers.
The average sized adult should consume 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil daily. This could be taken orally, added to food, or applied onto skin. It can be taken in the form of coconut oil, milk, meat, or flakes. Coconut milk provides approximately 1 Tbsp of coconut oil for every 3 ounces. People with diabetes (type 1 & II), or neurological disease would benefit from up to 8-10 tablespoons of coconut oil or MCT oil daily.
In study, coconut oil was shown to provide anti-stress benefits. After being stress-induced through swim and cold restraint tests, mice treated with virgin coconut oil showed less oxidative stress. Analysis of their brains also found higher levels of antioxidants among other health improvements compared to mice not fed the nutritional oil. (13)
This research suggests that coconut oil may be beneficial to individuals suffering from chronic stress, compromised mental and physical health related conditions including depression and hypertension.
Some of Dr. Jockers’ Favorite Recipes:
Cooking with coconut based products is different than using regular flour or other types of milks. Here are a few recipes to get you started with adding this nutritional superfood into your diet!
Types of MCTs
You may wonder why are MCT’s called medium chain triglycerides. When it comes to oils, there a short, medium, or long chains, most oil have a combination of all three. The term “medium” in MCTs simply refers to the length of the chain of fatty acids in MCTs.
Medium chain fatty acids contain between 6 to 12 carbon chains. Different forms of MCTs include (8):
C6 – Caproic Acid
Caproic Acid is the smallest chain of MCTs with only 6 carbon chains. Since there is only a very small amount of them in our normal food supply, it may lead to digestive issues.
C8 – Caprylic Acid
Caprylic Acid is an 8 carbon MCT. Though it’s only found in only 6 percent concentration in coconut oil, it is considered a powerful cellular fuel that is highly antimicrobial and antifungal. It turns into cellular energy (ATP) very quickly, in 3 steps only, compared to 26 steps for sugar.
Caprylic acid strengthens our mitochondria and significantly improves our energy and mental function (9). This is the fatty acid most responsible for the coconut oil brain benefits.
C10 – Capric Acid
Capric Acid is a 10 carbon chain fatty acid with powerful antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory benefits. They are particularly beneficial for your bones and may help to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.
C12 – Lauric Acid
Lauric Acid is a 12 carbon chain fatty acid that is responsible for around 50 percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil. Though it is still considered an MCT, it acts more like long-chain fatty acid and needs liver bile to be effectively metabolized (6).
To learn more about MCTs and their benefits, I recommend that you read this article. The best benefit from MCT’s comes from consuming pure C8 caprylic acid. In fact, caprylic acid is often referred to as the gold nugget of MCTs. We created an indepth article
A Superior Choice:
There are so many products on the market that you may be confused about which one is the best. To experience the best Caprylic Acid benefits, I recommend Keto Brain. I personally use Keto Brain and recommend it to my patients and friends.
Keto Brain is a pure 8 carbon chain caprylic acid that is free of lauric and capric acid. It turns into ketones in your body very quickly, which means instant fuels for your brains. It also helps our body to make the switch from burning sugar to ketones as a primary fuel source simply and effectively.