There’s a lot of buzz right now about coconut oil being good for your brain. The primary argument is that coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, which are metabolized a little differently than most types of fat. The MCTs in coconut oil break down into ketones, which can be used by brain cells for fuel. The idea is that supplying the brain with some extra fuel might make it run better.
Under normal circumstances, brain cells use glucose for energy. But because your brain is so important to your survival, there’s a back-up plan. If you run out of glucose, your body starts to convert stored fats into ketones, which are transported to the brain. It’s a little like having a back-up generator for your house. If you lose power during a storm, the back-up generator will kick in to keep the lights on.
Although it’s certainly better than being in the dark, most back-up generators are designed to be used only in emergencies until regular power is restored. Similarly, although they will gladly use ketones when no other energy source is available, healthy brain cells will preferentially burn glucose if it’s available.
So the fact that coconut oil supplies ketones doesn’t necessarily mean that the brain will use them for fuel. And perhaps that’s why I can’t find any studies showing that simply adding coconut oil to the diet leads to improvement in cognitive function in people with normal brain function.