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 in-depth 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.
Can you mix the coconut oil and MCT oil together? How do you take MCT and coconut oil daily. Would you give examples? Thank you………….
Cook with coconut oil & drink MCT oil, by the teaspoon (tastes fine to me) or in a drink. I drink a Bulletproof coffee daily with 1 T grass fed butter, 2 T 35% whipping cream + 3 T MCT oil. High speed blender completely emulsifies it so easy to drink.
Thanks for sharing!
Coconut oil is MCT oil. Just take a big tsp or tbsp of the coconut oil straight up or put in shakes, cook with it (you should ONLY cook with coconut oil) and put it on your skin. All these ways count!
Coconut butter is like crack for me. So, so delicious! It’s like white chocolate – a true healthy treat. Does it have the same benefits as the oil I wonder?
Some but not near as potent
A great article on coconut oil Dr. Jockers. Keep up the good work.
All the best
Can eating coconut have the same benefits? What quantity of the pulp can be appropriate. Particularly for diabetics. Thanks.
Dear dr Jockers how many do you take in supplement for diabetic 1and2 with cancer and memory loss I see 8 tablespoon is a lot for diabetic and don’t think they will go for that but maybe in supplement form. Thank you
I would recommend taking the tablespoons through food – putting them in shakes, cooking with it and pouring it on top of the meat, applying to skin, making recipes (such as we have on DrJockers.com) etc.
A good article but most people do not know that refined nonGMO coconut oil has the same benefits but without the taste. Many have objection to the smell or taste.
Good point, I highly recommend organic coconut oil. Currently there is no such thing as GMO coconut oil.
You are write do
Hi Dr. Jockers,
would you recommend virgin coconut oil instead of refined coconut oil?
Hey John, Absolutely! I recommend consuming organic, virgin or extra virgin coconut oil!
Thanks Dr. Jockers!
how much quantity (tablespoons) per day would you prescribe and what time of the day (say, early morning or before bedtime) would give best body absorption?
Hey John, Depending on your body weight and health goals I offer recommendations in this article.
Recent research says only 10% of coconut oil is MCT oil, and it increases LDL cholesterol. Do you have any link to any papers that disproves this?! Many thanks in advance
Hey Alex, actually around 65% of coconut oil is MCT fats. However, 50% is lauric acid which is classified as an MCT but acts a bit more like an LCT. Only 15% of the fats in coconut oil are true MCT’s – C8 and C10. Coconut oil does not raise LDL. Coconut oil helps to reduce insulin levels, which has a beneficial impact on our LDL:HDL ratio and our Triglyceride:HDL ratio.
Here is a helpful article: https://drjockers.com/5-reasons-use-mct-oil-ketosis/
I started following the high fat low carbohydrate life style with 2 tablespoons of org, virgin coconut oil over 4 years ago and tried to increase the quantity but it seems to trend towards diarrhea. Even a constant consumption of 2 T is problematic. Do others have this same problem? I have tried to isolate other possible culprits; but have found none.
Yes for some people, they may have a challenge digesting it. But consuming even 1 tbsp daily will be beneficial!
Hi, Dr. Jockers, I like this article. I have learned from a couple of naturopathic physicians that we should avoid consuming any bottled oils – mayo, salad dressings – including olive oil and coconut oil because of heat, light and oxygen exposures oxidizing and generating free radicals up to and including complete rancidity regardless of any health benefits that may come with this. We can’t be certain of how fresh these processed oils really are, though most oils are obvious no-nos. Better to consume them in their natural whole food state. Therefore, I have tended to avoid these things – except for use in my hair. I have usually recommended to others who decide to use these oils to consume an antioxidant along with the oil consumptions or adding a vitamin E capsule to the new bottle of olive oil for a little “insurance.” However, I don’t know how sound or useful this suggestion really is. It just makes sense to me. When you have the time and interest, would you please address this for everyone? How can folks consume these oils responsibly and safely to get the health benefits while minimizing the cellular damage? The highest and freshest quality of olive oil I am aware of comes from an olive oil club, but I’m confident most people are not going to pay $30 to $40 for an 8-ounce bottle. Thank you very much.
Actually, good quality extra virgin coconut and olive oil have a number of great health benefits. Coconut oil in particular is very resistant to contamination from heat and light. I personally use these oils and recommend them. With olive oil, it is very important to get a high quality, organic extra virgin olive oil in a dark glass container. The Olive oil club is an excellent source!
The most recent resource for this article is already 5 years old. Nothing more recent that confirms your opinion?
but the most important benefit of coconut oil is tooth decay treatment, it has been 2 years since i last had a tooth decay.. also i read that 2 spoons of coconut oil daily will remove belly fat in two months
Great to hear this!!
Thank you Dr. Jokers for your time and sharing of the health benefits of Coconut.
I live in on a tropical island in the South Pacific and we use coconut in most of our cooking. We have an abundant of coconuts which we do make coconut oil from. So our coconut oils would be regarded as virgin oil because it is organic and also home made. Please advise if the coconut cream we use to cream our fish, greens and root vegetables are safe.
Hey Claire, That sounds great! Yes, you can definitely prepare your own coconut cream from the meat of the coconuts local to you.
Thanks for this great article. I love eating the coconut oil straight and I feel some relief within minutes from cognitive fatigue ( I have a brain injury). But I have had to stop because I am having some sort of allergic reaction in my throat, which begins to itch and burn and then I start coughing.
I’ve tried MCT oil but I find it is too overstimulating and had to back off from that.
Do you have any suggestions of how to still get MCT’s or other ways to use coconut oil without getting this reaction? I do cook with it, but want to get a higher dosage each day. Thanks
Hey Zee, It is best to avoid coconut oil if you are sensitive!
How coconut oil helps in autism kids ?
Hey Kumar, Coconut oil can support digestion and boost immune health. We will soon be publishing an article on autism- causes, symptoms and solutions! Please come back and read for more information on autism.
Would consuming unsweetened coconut flakes have the same benefits? Dehydrated at low temperature so considered to have same benefits as raw?
Yes it would have a similar benefit although it will take a bit longer to get the fats digested as opposed to the coconut oil or MCT oil.
Dear Wonderful Dr. Jockers!
Thank you soooooo much for your numerous amazingly beneficial articles. They are not only informative but also beautifully done! I always save all of your transmissions and share them with my friends here in Mexico. I love coconuts which are plentiful here and I use coconut oil regularly, but I will be consuming it even more since reading your article. You are really improving our world with your posts! Muchas muchas graciasI.
Thank you so much for all your support! Blessings!