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How to Use Coconut Oil for Brain Health: Full Guide

Coconut oil has been touted for its numerous health benefits, from improving skin and hair health to supporting weight loss and digestion. However, its potential impact on brain health is often overlooked. In this article, we’ll explore the ways in which coconut oil can support cognitive function and overall brain health, providing a comprehensive guide on how to incorporate it into your daily routine.

Table of Contents

    What is Coconut Oil?

    Coconut oil is a white, semisolid fat or nearly colourless fatty oil extracted from coconuts, primarily used in foods and industrial applications such as cosmetics and detergent production. It is a rich source of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) and has a distinct coconut aroma in unrefined varieties. Coconut oil is used in various ways, including as a food oil, in baking, and as a substitute for other fats in cooking. It also has industrial applications, such as in the production of cosmetics and detergents.

    The Science Behind Coconut Oil's Brain Benefits

    Coconut oil contains a unique combination of fatty acids, including medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are easily absorbed by the body. These MCTs are the most important part of coconut oil. They are converted into ketones, a preferred source of energy for the brain. When the brain uses ketones as fuel, it can lead to improved cognitive function, memory, and focus.

    A 2015 study showed that virgin coconut oil contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. (insert picture of virgin coconut oil) 

    This can contribute to a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

    How to Use Coconut Oil for Brain Health

    You can read Dr Mary Newport’s guide on coconut oil recipes here: COCONUT OIL DIETARY GUIDELINES AND SUGGESTIONS By Mary T. Newport, MD 

    Incorporating coconut oil into your daily routine can be done in several practical and enjoyable ways. From culinary applications to supplements and topical use, there are multiple methods to harness the brain-boosting benefits of coconut oil. Here are some detailed approaches to get you started:

    1. Directly Consume a Coconut/MCT Oil Supplement

    • Most coconut oil and MCT oils on the market right now contain mostly C8 and C10, not C12. There is a misconception that C12 is not really considered a medium-chain triglyceride due to its relatively long carbon-length. 
    • However, a recent study has shown that C12 is able to promote neural growth and plasticity. 
    • This study in 2020 shows that lauric acid promotes neuronal maturation mediated by astrocytes in primary cortical cultures. Lauric acid was found to increase the mRNA expression of Gdnf, Il6, and Ccl2 in cultured cortical astrocytes. 
    • The ability of molecules like GDNF, IL6, and CCL2 to promote axon branching and neurite outgrowth in Alzheimer’s disease holds potential for neurogenesis, repairing neural damage and enhancing neural plasticity.
    • Hence, while most products contain C8 and C10 that are good for energy and metabolism, do look for an extra supplement that gives you a C12 boost. 
    • Most of the products we listed below are tasteless, odourless, keto-friendly and vegan.

    Radha Beauty MCT Oil (16 Fl Oz)

    coconut oil for brain

    Pros: Add to drinks

    Cons: Expensive, Little C12 (not enough brain boost)

    Price: US$18.49 ($1.15 / Fl Oz)

    FORTE NATURALS Coconut Oil Supplements (60 soft gels)

    coconut oil for brain health

    Pros: Low-calorie (less weight gain!), Cost-effective, Provides full spectrum of MCTs 

    Cons: Less concentrated (Only a total of 2.5 g MCTs in 2 soft gels)

    Price: US$25.95 ($0.43 / Count)

    Calories: 25 calories per serving (2 soft gels)

    Forte Naturals Coconut Oil softgels offer pure, high-quality organic ingredients, providing numerous health benefits. Cold-pressed and unrefined, they promote overall health, metabolism, and gut balance while enhancing skin, hair, and nail health. With a blend of C8, C10, and C12 MCT oil sourced from coconut oil, they support heart, cardiovascular, and brain health. Founded by women and proudly made in the USA, Forte Naturals prioritises the well-being of its customers.

    Bulletproof MCT Oil Made with C10 and C8 Oil (16 Fl Oz)

    coconut oil for brain health

    Pros: Add to drinks

    Cons: No C12 (no brain boost)

    Price: US$13.95 ($0.87 / Fl Oz)

    Calories: 130 calories per serving (1 tablespoon) 

    Bulletproof MCT Oil has been on the market for 10 years already. It is supposed to offer a convenient keto-friendly fuel source packed with C8 and C10 MCTs, derived entirely from coconut oil. Rapidly converting into ketones, it provides sustained energy throughout the day while curbing cravings and enhancing mental clarity. This flavourless and versatile fat can be easily incorporated into any meal or beverage, offering maximum benefit with science-backed ingredients. Whether added to coffee, soups, smoothies, or other recipes, Bulletproof MCT Oil ensures a reliable energy boost whenever needed. 

    However, it does not contain any C12, which is crucial for neural growth!

    Bulletproof MCT products don’t contain any MCTs longer than 8-10 carbons as they are mainly targeting weight loss, since C8 and C10 are absorbed faster than C12. Hence, if you’re looking to further enhance your brain health with ketones, try looking for other products that offer some C12 as well.

    Left Coast Performance 100% Coconut MCT Oil C8 C10 (32 Fl Oz)

    coconut oil for brain health

    Cons: No C12 (not enough brain boost)

    Price: US$24.29 ($0.76 / Ounce)

    Calories: 130 calories per serving (1 tablespoon)

    Natural Force Organic MCT Oil (32 Fl Oz)

    coconut oil for brain

    Pros: Provides full spectrum of MCTs, Eco-friendly glass packaging 

    Cons: Expensive, Contains less C12 

    Price: US$49.99 ($1.56/Fl Oz)

    Calories: 125 calories per serving (1 tablespoon)

    Onnit MCT Oil (24 Fl Oz)

    coconut oil for brain health

    Pros: Provides full spectrum of MCTs, Add to drinks

    Cons: Super expensive

    Price: US$36 ($1.50 / Fl Oz)

    Calories: 130 calories per serving (1 tablespoon)

    NOW Foods MCT Oil (32 Fl Oz)

    coconut oil for brain health

    Pros: Well-known supplement brand 

    Cons: Super expensive, Shake before consuming (large chunks may settle at bottom), No C12 (no brain boost)

    Price: US$57.97 ($1.80 / Fl Oz)

    Calories: 130 calories per serving (1 tablespoon)

    Sports Research Organic MCT Oil - Keto & Vegan MCTs C8, C10, C12 from Coconuts (16 Fl Oz)

    coconut oil for brain health

    Pros: Provides a full spectrum of MCTs, Contains the most C12 

    Cons: Expensive

    Price: US$23.95 ($1.50 / Fl Oz)

    Calories: 130 calories per serving (1 tablespoon)

    Sports Research also has a MCT oil powder formula, but does not contain any C12.

    Sports Research Organic MCT Powder (30 scoops)

    coconut oil for brain

    Pros: Good alternative for people who prefer to add powder to their shakes…

    Cons: No C12

    Price: US$18.49 ($0.60 / scoop)

    Calories: 60 calories per scoop

    The product below contains a little less C12, but is cheaper.

    Simply Full Spectrum MCT Oil C8, C10 & C12 (32 Fl Oz)

    coconut oil for brain health

    Pros: Cheap, Provides a full spectrum of MCTs

    Cons: Contains less C12 than Sports Research Organic MCT Oil

    Price: US$22.46 ($0.70 / Fl Oz)

    Calories: 130 calories per serving (1 tablespoon)

    Another alternative would be to consume a 4 MCT Oil (C8, C10) :3 Coconut Oil (for that lauric acid) ratio, as suggested by Dr MAry Newport. 

    Nutricost Coconut Oil Softgels (1000mg) 120 Softgels - Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

    coconut oil for brain health

    Price: US$8.10 ($0.06 per softgel)

    Calories: 120 calories per softgel

    2. Incorporate Coconut Oil into Your Daily Routine

    Dr Mary Newport gave 5-6 tablespoons of coconut oil everyday to her husband and saw significant improvement. You could try to incorporate the same amount of coconut oil into your food:

    • Use Coconut Oil As A Cooking Oil: Replace other oils like olive or vegetable oil with coconut oil for sautéing, roasting, or baking. 
    • Use Coconut Oil in Smoothies: Mix in a few tablespoons into your smoothie blend.
    • Add Coconut Oil into your Salads: Opt for the tasteless, odourless types that we have listed above.

    3. Include Brain-Boosting Foods to Use with Coconut Oil

    Here is a list of foods you can eat with coconut oil to maximise its benefits:

    A. Blueberries

    coconut oil for brain health
    • Harvard researchers found that flavonoids – the compound found in blueberries – can block the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques, which is helpful in combating dementia.
    • Some people prefer to use freeze-dried blueberries in their smoothies, like Natierra Organic Blueberries.

    B. High Flavanol Cacao

    • Cacao may save your brain cells from being killed by free radicals! 
    • A study showed that the flavonoids in cacao helped to interact with signalization cascades involving protein and lipid kinases that lead to the inhibition of neuronal death by apoptosis induced by neurotoxicants such as oxygen radicals, and promote neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity. 
    • These radicals enter the brain and stimulate brain perfusion provoking angiogenesis and changes in neuron morphology that have been mainly studied in the hippocampus.

    C. Vitamin A Veggies

    • Vitamin A (retinol, retinal and retinoic acid) and β-carotene have been shown in in vitro studies to inhibit the formation, extension and destabilising effects of beta-amyloid fibrils.
    • The best way to obtain vitamin A is through its precursor beta-carotene.

    D. Apple Juice

    coconut oil for brain health
    • Apple juice increases our levels of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter in our brain involved in learning and memory. 
    • In dementia, the brain experiences an acetylcholine shortage. 
    • Since coconut oil inhibits the effects of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that decreases our levels of acetylcholine, adding apple juice to your coconut-oil based smoothie may be able to maximise that benefit. 
    • Remember to use fresh apple juice and not a processed apple-juice concentrate laden with sugars.

    E. Foods that lower LDL

    • Coconut oil has been known to increase the “bad” cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in our bodies, and thus may cause heart problems. This, sadly, is the price we pay for improved brain function. 
    • To counter this, you can eat foods that lower your LDL like avocados, oats, barley and eggplants.

    Conclusion

    Coconut oil is a versatile and effective tool for supporting brain health. By incorporating it into your daily routine through diet, supplements, or topical application, you can potentially improve cognitive function, memory, and focus. Remember to start with a small amount, combine it with other brain-healthy foods, and consult with a healthcare professional if needed. With its unique combination of MCTs and antioxidants, coconut oil is an excellent addition to any brain health regimen.

    If you’d like to have an even more in-depth guide on how to incorporate coconut oil into your daily life, do check out Dr Mary Newport’s book on:

    The Coconut Oil and Low-Carb Solution for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Other Diseases: A Guide to Using Diet and a High-Energy Food to Protect and Nourish the Brain

    coconut oil for brain health

    “This book effectively serves its purpose with clear and practical insights. It offers thorough and articulate discussions on the established science surrounding nourishment and the restoration of damaged brains, along with practical advice for integrating these concepts into everyday life. Significantly, it also offers a comprehensive overview of contemporary perspectives on the application and effectiveness of ketogenic therapy for brain injuries.” – Amazon reviewer

    FAQs

    A. How much coconut oil should I consume daily for brain health?

    Start with 1-2 tablespoons per day and gradually increase as needed, depending on your body's response and your healthcare professional's advice.

    B. Can coconut oil help with memory improvement?

    Yes, the MCTs in coconut oil are converted into ketones, which can provide an alternative energy source for the brain, potentially improving memory and cognitive function.

    C. Is there a difference between refined and unrefined coconut oil for brain health?

    Unrefined (virgin) coconut oil retains more of the natural antioxidants and beneficial compounds compared to refined coconut oil, making it potentially more beneficial for brain health.

    D. Can coconut oil prevent neurodegenerative diseases?

    While coconut oil contains compounds that may help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, more research is needed. It can support brain health but should not be seen as a cure or sole preventive measure.

    E. Are there any side effects of using coconut oil for brain health?

    Some people may experience digestive discomfort when consuming coconut oil in large amounts. It is best to start with a small amount and increase gradually. Always consult a healthcare professional if you have concerns.

    F. Can I just eat a lauric acid supplement without coconut oil for brain health?

    Those afraid of weight gain may then ask, can I just take MCT oil and a C12 supplement? Pure coconut oil is just too many calories for me to manage. 

    No, there are no pure C12 supplements on the market, only derivatives of it, like monolaurin. There is limited research on whether monolaurin can act in the same way as C12 in promoting neural growth and plasticity.

    Monolaurin (Lauric acid supplement)

    coconut oil for brain health

    Monolaurin is derived from C12. It is generally taken for its antimicrobial properties.

    The most recent C12 supplement was by the pharmaceutical company Impromy. However, there was a controversy surrounding this product due to an alleged “lack of scientific backing”. The product, called “Metabolic C12” was sold under Blackmores, and was listed as a weight loss pill. There was also no scientific evidence as to whether it really helped people lose weight. 

    coconut oil for brain health

    Hence, the current way to obtain C12 is mainly through coconut oil or a holistic blend of MCT oils.