Just like the name ‘coconut oil’ sounds, it is clear that this is the oil extracted from coconut. And, we are about to explore if coconut oil lowers blood pressure.
Coconut oil contains nearly 90% of saturated fat. It is noteworthy to say that oils rich in saturated fats have shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases in medical research. If the same applies to coconut oil, does it even worth discussing the topic ‘Does coconut oil lower blood pressure’?
However, the research echoes differently for coconut oil. There has been a recent interest focused on studies about coconut oil claiming for its benefits to health such as its support for weight loss, slowing down the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and even lowering blood pressure.
Following the good news, food product manufacturers have also started diverting their attention to coconut oil as they now eliminate other oils from their products and replace them with coconut oil. Coconut oil is now recommended using for frying, making edible items like coffee, sweets and smoothies as well as inedible like shampoos.
The results of a survey carried out in the U.S. in July 2016 showed that about 72% of the U.S. population believe that coconut oil is beneficial to the health; however, only about 37% of nutritionists seem to agree with this.
Types of coconut oil: Are all coconut oils the same?
All coconut oils are from coconut, but they are not all the same. They mostly differ in the processes of extraction or methods off processing. Also, some are said to be more healthful than others.
Let’s look at the key coconut oil types.
Virgin coconut oil
It is extracted from fresh and matured coconuts without being subjected to chemicals or high temperatures. This is an unrefined form of coconut oil and is considered the most beneficial health-wise.
Refined coconut oil
The coconut oil, in this case, is extracted from deodorized and chemically bleached coconut meat.
Partially hydrogenated coconut oil
This sort of coconut oil is hydrogenated and not healthful. In fact, it could be as ‘unhealthy’ as other highly processed oils containing a high degree of Trans fats.
Coconut oil and blood pressure: What do studies say?
Coconut oil can be classified as a ‘superfood’ because of its unique blend of fatty acids, which have been said to have positive effects and remarkable benefits to the health. Amidst the growing popularity of coconut oil and the much health benefits attributed to it, people still wonder if it in any way affects blood pressure.
Heart (Cardiovascular) disease is now known as one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Hypertension is one of those factors that predispose one to such cardiovascular conditions such as stroke and heart attacks from atherosclerosis. An unhealthy lifestyle has, however, been indicated as one of the significant contributors to elevated blood pressure.
There has been a hypothesis, which claims that a combination of daily consumption of coconut oil and regular exercising does restore baroreflex sensitivity, which lowers oxidative stress and in turn reduces blood pressure.
A research was carried out to test this hypothesis and was published in the journal- Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. The research, which was carried out on hypertensive rats, showed that a combination of coconut oil and exercise training could reduce weight gain when compared to the group of rats that were given only saline without exposure to the exercise during the five weeks of study.
The combined coconut oil and exercise training were able to bring down the blood pressure to normotensive values, and this could be attributed to improvement in baroreflex sensitivity and also the lowering of oxidative stress in the serum, aorta and heart. With this research lies the possibility of using coconut oil as an adjuvant in treating high blood pressure in humans.
In another study with virgin coconut oil and five-times heated-palm oil (which is said to cause a significant increase in blood pressure), it showed a decrease in body weight of the rats fed with the virgin coconut oil (VCO) as compared with the control group and those fed with the five-times-heated-palm oil (5HPO). There was also increased blood pressure in the 5HPO group. However, for those supplemented with VCO, it prevented the blood pressure-elevating effect of the 5HPO group.
From the above research, the ability of virgin coconut oil to lower the blood pressure could be attributed to its high poly phenol content as some studies have shown the ability of ponyphenol to lower blood pressure.
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Tip: Some symptoms of high blood pressure overlaps with high/low blood sugar level symptoms. Similarly, some causes of hypertension can contribute for diabetes too depending on the stage of hypertension.
Does coconut oil have lipid-lowering potentials?
Even though virgin coconut oil is said to have a high content of saturated fat, it is widely known for its antioxidant content and has recently also been linked with cardiovascular health.
The liver processes lipids (or fats) as triglycerides (or cholesterol), which have both shown to have negative effects on the cardiovascular system.
Asides the anti-inflammatory properties that have been reported with virgin coconut oil, it is also said to have lipid-lowering powers and ability to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol circulating in the blood.
Why has coconut oil been suggested for a healthy heart and cardiovascular system?
The common belief that coconut oil is good for the heart (despite its high composition of saturated fat) is because it is suggested by some studies to raise the level of the ‘good cholesterol’, HDL.
Also, it is said to contain mostly the ‘medium-chain triglycerides’ and not the ‘long-chain triglycerides’ as found in most other plant-based oils.
Even with this, there is still not much evidence to prove that coconut oil is very beneficial to cardiovascular health.
While some studies have shown that incorporating virgin coconut oil into diets had made small increases in the levels of HDL, some other studies have also shown that it increased the levels of LDL as well. Thus, one cannot say at this point that the net impact of coconut oil on lipids has been precisely determined.
Nutritional constituents of coconut oil
A tablespoon of coconut oil, as reported in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database contains:
- 0 grams of proteins
- 120 calories
- 0 milligrams of cholesterol
- 14 g of fat (of which 12 g saturated, 0.5 g polyunsaturated and 1 g monounsaturated)
It is said to contain no fibre and only a little to no vitamins.
Unlike the saturated fat found in most animal products, coconut oil contains a high amount of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
MCTs are not easily converted into stored fat, and therefore, it is usually easier to lose them off than the long-chain triglycerides. In fact, most of the benefits of coconut oil are attributed to its high content of the MCTs.
Research conducted at Columbia University and published in 2008 concluded that the consumption of MCT could have comparable effects on cardiovascular risk factors just like the same amount of olive oil.
Also, since MCTs can have a positive impact on the cholesterol and HDL levels, coconut oil could be beneficial to the health.
What are other evidence-based benefits of coconut oil?
Asides the tendency of coconut oil to affect blood pressure level, its other health benefits have been attributed to improved brain function, fat loss etc.
Here are some coconut oil benefits as supported by scientific evidence.
1. Coconut oil can improve fat burning
Overweight might not seem like a killer disease (until it becomes obesity!), but it is, in fact, can result in serious health complications and one of the biggest health challenges faced globally.
While obesity has a link with the consumption of calories, the source of the calorie being also consumed matters. This is because of the effect that different foods have on our body and hormone system differ.
Studies have shown that compared to the long-chain triglycerides, the consumption of medium-chain triglycerides can increase the number of calories one burn.
2. The fatty acids contained in coconut oil has beneficial and medicinal properties
The saturated fats in coconut oil, unlike other fats from some other dietary products, are quite healthy. They have been linked to an increase in HDL level; hence, leading to lower heart attack risk.
Also, when you consume these types of fats, they are more quickly utilized by the liver and are being converted into ketones.
Studies have shown ketones to be beneficial to the brain as well as useful for the treatment of specific disorders like Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.
3. It can reduce appetite
Coconut oil can actually reduce your appetite, thus, making you eat less. This has been attributed to the fatty acids present in the oil.
This potential to reduce hunger can be linked to the mechanism of metabolism of the fats. They are being converted into ketones and ketones according to research can cause a reduction in appetite.
Some of the studies that have proven this fact was carried out under short duration. There is the tendency that if this effect could persist over a long time, it would definitely lead to a reduction in body weight over a span of many years.
4. Coconut oil help eliminate microorganisms
Almost half of the fatty acids in coconut oil is organized from the 12-carbon lauric acid. Therefore, when the body digests the fatty acid, lauric acid is being converted to monolaurin.
Both monolaurin and lauric acid have been shown to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. For instance, they help kill bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and even Candida albicans which is a yeast that causes yeast infections in humans.
Tip: Yeast infections can look very similar to warts or viral skin infections.
5. Coconut oil may reduce seizures and boost brain function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease
Ketogenic diets are currently being studied to find out their ability to treat certain disorders. One of the best therapeutic application of this diet that has been discovered is its effectiveness in treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children.
Keto diet involves cutting down on carbs and feeding more on fats which are then converted into ketones by the liver. This is much similar to the metabolism mechanism of coconut oil. Since the fatty acids in the coconut oil can be converted into ketones, it may help induce ketosis.
Alzheimer’s disease is quite common in the elderly. In patients with Alzheimer’s, there seems to be a reduced ability to utilize glucose in the generation of energy in certain parts of the brain.
There have been speculations by researchers that ketones can form an alternative source of energy for those brain cells that are malfunctioning; hence, reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and the disease progression.
A study carried out in 2006 showed that consumption of MCTs did improve brain function in patients with a mild degree of Alzheimer’s. However, these studies outcomes are still inclusive and don’t directly point out to coconut oil, treating Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Coconut oil can protect the hair, skin and teeth
Coconut oil serves other purposes asides consuming them as part of the diet. In fact, it is quite famous for its usage as an ingredient for a cosmetic product. The basis for that is because it has shown to enhance the appearance of the hair and skin.
Studies also show coconut oil could be useful in treating hair lice.
A study carried out on some individuals with dry skin showed that coconut oil has the potentials to improve the skin’s moisture content, and it can also reduce eczema symptoms.
Another study showed that it could serve as a mild form of sunscreen. This is because it has abled to block about 20% of the ultraviolet rays from the sun.
Coconut oil is also proven to be effective in protecting against hair damage.
Also, there is a process called oil pulling whereby coconut oil is used as a mouthwash to kill certain harmful bacteria in the oral cavity. It is useful in reducing bad breath as well as improving dental health.
Where to get coconut oil?
You can buy coconut oil or even make it yourself the DIY way.
If you want to buy it, you can place your order for it online. There is an array of excellent choices to make from online shopping sites such as Amazon. You should browse through customer reviews to help you with your selection.
You can also find them at local health food stores. It is always better you go for the unrefined virgin coconut oil as it believed to provide more health benefits.
How much coconut oil should you consume per day?
As noted earlier, coconut oil has been linked with specific health benefits, yet it doesn’t erase the fact that people still don’t know the best ways to eat it or the amount to consume.
Coconut oil dosages for health benefits
Research that compared the effects of different fat types on blood cholesterol levels, showed that a diet containing 20% of coconut oil calories increased the HDL cholesterol level in women.
Also, in these studies, a person that consumes about 2,000 calories for maintaining weight recommended taking about 36-39 grams of coconut oil daily as part of the meal plan.
Another study noted that obese people took 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily for a month showed that they sooner lost an average of 1.1 inches from their waist.
Amount of coconut oil to take per day?
Some studies are in support of 2 tablespoons being the effective dosage per day while some other studies encourage up to 2.5 tablespoons per day.
Two tablespoons of coconut oil contain about 18 grams of MCTs, which falls within the range that is effective in increasing metabolic rate. Also, eating this dosage leaves room for the incorporation of other healthy fats from other foods such as olive oil and avocados.
Tip: Did you know pepper powder and coconut oil when mixed and blended with warm water can help relieve knee joint pain.
Coconut oil: Side effects
Coconut oil might induce certain side effects on its consumers. One of such adverse effects is digestive upset. Obviously, not everyone will experience this; you should be ‘watchful’ only if you try coconut oil for the first time.
A study published in 2017 showed that individuals that supplemented their meals with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily experienced vomiting, stomach pain and/or diarrhea during their first week of the supplementation.
It can also cause allergic reactions in some individuals and might not be advisable for pregnant women as they might react to it. Its allergic reactions may present in the form of nausea, vomiting, hives, rashes, eczema and even anaphylaxis.
Even though coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is said to be effective in killing acne-causing, bacteria in people with dry skin, it might also cause acne breakout in people who possess excessively oily skin.
For those who use it as a lubricant, it can alter the pH of the vagina; thus, predisposing to yeast infections.
There hasn’t been much conclusive evidence to prove the effectiveness of coconut oil in reducing blood pressure; thus, there is a need for more researches in this topic area.
However, with the available researches in this area, there is a high tendency of coconut oil, improving the blood pressure level and hence enhancing the normal functioning of the heart and cardiovascular system.
Caution, however, should be taken as regards the type of coconut oil you would consume and the quantity to consume. You should also be wary of the possibility of it causing allergic reactions, especially when you are trying coconut oil for the first time.
Tip: Regardless you have high blood pressure or not, it is a good idea to have a blood pressure monitor at home.
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