Aside from being a refreshing fruit, many recognize coconut’s many benefits. The utility of the tree ranges from its water, raw kernel, shell, and wood-based products. One major use of this fruit is for cooking. Although many people shy away from using coconut oil due to its high amount of saturated fat, we may not say the same about its potential against cancer. Researchers are continuously looking for ways to treat and mitigate the burden of cancer. Hence, in looking for effective alternatives, they are currently eyeing the viability of coconut in the fight against cancer. Here are the specific effects and uses of coconut against different kinds of cancer.
The Many Wonders of Coconut
Coconut has long been a part of different cultures, especially in Asian countries. In some Indian cultures, the coconut has several uses, such as treating hair loss and burns. They also believe it can be effective against gonorrhea, bronchitis, fever, and gingivitis. People also call it the “tree of life” because of how a community can maximize all its parts.
Much like any other “superstitious” beliefs that people cling to from long ago, these medicinal uses are not without some sort of affirmation. These saw effectiveness because the coconut prides itself on its many benefits. The benefits of coconut come from the following:
- Antioxidant Effect: Coconut water contains L-arginine, a free amino acid which significantly reduces the generation of free radicals.
- Antibacterial and Antiviral Effects: Coconut is abundant in medium chain fatty acids. This helps in destroying lipid-coated viruses and bacteria.
- Anticaries Effect: A glycolipid compound found in coconut can reduce glycolysis and sucrose oxidation preventing dental plaque.
- Immunostimulatory Effect: Zinc found in virgin coconut oil increases Tc cells, Th cells, and IL-2 while maintaining neutrophil and NK cell count.
- Antidermatophytic Effect: Monolaurin in coconut has a statistically significant sensitivity effect against superficial skin infections.
- Hepatoprotective Effect: Rats intoxicated with carbon tetrachloride did not exhibit any fatty infiltration or necrosis after induction of coconut water.
Aside from the benefits of coconut mentioned above, it also contains essential components in one’s diet, such as arginine-rich proteins, fiber, vitamin E, phytosterols, flavonoids, and polyphenols. From these benefits, we notice that much of them refer to fat or lipids. The oil in coconut is famous for its many benefits. But how does it really differ from all the other oils? Aren’t they mostly bad for your health?
What Makes Coconut Oil Special?
While everything in excess is bad for your health, using a moderate amount of coconut oil can be more beneficial. Additionally, the fatty acid content of the coconut oil and its specific composition also provides great value.
Experimenting with the different kinds of coconut oil, researchers in a 2019 study tried to find another viable treatment for liver and oral cancer. The coconut oil showed its potential by exhibiting significant anticancer activity against HepG2 cancer cells and KB cancer cell line. The inherent hepatoprotective tendency of the coconut may be at play during this experiment.
Remember that this hepatoprotective effect is mainly in coconut water. From this, we learned that the many benefits of the coconut itself may even have anticancer properties. Aside from the well-known benefits of coconut oil, there may be other ventures toward the different parts of the plant.
Coconut Water Vinegar Against Cancer Cells
The list of benefits from coconut shows how coconut water is one of the healthiest components of the fruit. It appears to be beneficial as an antioxidant while also having hepatoprotective properties. Because of these, coconut water has been the focus of studies looking for more anticancer alternatives.
Aside from the benefits of coconut water mentioned above, its immunostimulatory effects can lead to anticancer properties. Research conducted in 2019 pushes this capacity further by fermenting the coconut water into an acid. The researchers believe that this fermentation into vinegar should improve the immunostimulatory, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory effects of coconut water. This is because vinegar itself has these properties.
Results from this study showed that the freeze-dried coconut water vinegar induced several effects on 4T1 cancer cells inside mice. In vitro, the effects include reduced cell viability, delayed healing, and induced cell death of the tumor cells. In vivo, the coconut water vinegar also induced cell death in the tumor while also delaying the spread of the cancer cells throughout the body. Because of these results, the researchers believe that coconut water vinegar has the potential for chemoprevention in breast cancer.
Coconut Kernel Extract As Chemopreventive Agent
The kernel of the coconut is the source of its oil. This is why it also shares relatively the same nutrients and capabilities of the coconut oil. This time, a 2019 experiment tested the viability of coconut kernel extract as another chemopreventive agent. Specifically, this experiment focuses on the molecular programs that modify stem cells to produce cancer cells.
In testing the coconut kernel extract against skin cancer Balb/c of mice, the researchers found that it inhibits the cancer-promoting protein c-Myc. Additionally, the results showed that in vitro, the extract could reduce stem cell modifications that produce cancer cells. These results showed the chemopreventive potential of coconut kernel extract against skin cancer.
Coconut Shell for Chemodynamic Therapy
There are some unfamiliar words bundled up in the next research that we are going to discuss. As this is one of the most recent studies, it also utilizes the latest technology. This technology is chemodynamic therapy.
Basically, chemodynamic therapy involves using agents to convert hydrogen peroxide into a hydroxyl radical. Specifically targeted to cancer cells, this free radical can induce cell death and necrosis. This research paper shows how chemists used this method using carbon nanoparticles fabricated from coconut shells.
The use of the coconut shells in this experiment substituted for the usual peroxidase used for enzyme activity. The researchers produced a reaction of efficient hydroxyl radical production inside the cancer cells. In addition, they see no toxicity towards the surrounding normal cells. With the addition of photothermal treatment to achieve a more efficient chemodynamic therapy, this coconut shell-derived carbon nanoparticle seems plausible for cancer therapy.
From all of these studies, we can see how coconut can really be the tree of life. Its benefits from multiple effects due to its nutritional value are apparent. This utility could be one of the breakthroughs we need for the future of cancer treatment.