Supplementation with coconut oil, green tea may help reduce triglycerides

Pilot study suggests improving the fatty metabolism could lessen MS disability levels

Andrea Lobo, PhD avatar

by Andrea Lobo, PhD |

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Supplementation with coconut oil and the green tea component epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) significantly reduces the levels of fatty molecules called triglycerides in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a pilot study from Spain.

This reduction may complement improvements in functional capacity that have been reported previously following coconut oil and EGCG supplementation, the results suggest.

“[Triglycerides] in particular could be especially relevant as a prognostic biomarker of the disease,” the researchers wrote in the study “Lipid Profile in Multiple Sclerosis: Functional Capacity and Therapeutic Potential of Its Regulation after Intervention with Epigallocatechin Gallate and Coconut Oil,” published in the journal Foods.

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Abnormal levels of fatty molecules are widely present in MS patients and seem to contribute to disease progression. No cure exists for the neurodegenerative condition, but some nutrients and antioxidants that target these alterations in metabolism have stood out as potential alternatives to  slow or even reverse MS damage.

These include EGCG, the main component of green tea, and coconut oil, a medium-chain triglyceride. EGCG has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, while coconut oil affects fat metabolism and energy production.

Looking to lessen disability in people with MS

Researchers in Spain conducted a pilot clinical trial (NCT03740295) to investigate if supplementation with these two molecules, in combination with an anti-inflammatory diet, could improve the fatty metabolism and lessen disability in people with MS.

A total of 51 adults were assigned randomly to a supplement group, in which participants took 60 mL of coconut oil and 800 mg of EGCG, or a control group, in which the supplements were replaced by placebo. All were asked to follow a Mediterranean-style diet, consisting of five small meals per day, with 20% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 40% healthy fats.

Earlier findings showed that patients in the supplement group experienced significant functional improvements, including increases in walking speed and endurance, and better balance.

The team now examined how these improvements related with the levels of certain fat (lipid) molecules. Measurements of the lipid profile before and after the intervention were available for 45 of the initial 51 patients.

Results showed that participants generally consumed a high amount of foods rich in fat and simple sugars, including processed meats, snacks, and industrial desserts. However, the amount of lipids and saturated fats ingested were not associated with the patient’s lipid profiles, indicating that abnormal lipid levels in MS “is part of the pathophysiological mechanism of the disease,” the team wrote.

After the intervention, there were no significant differences between groups in most lipid measurements, including total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL, sometimes called “good cholesterol”), low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or the “bad cholesterol”), or ApoA1, the main protein component in HDL.

Triglyceride levels reduced

However, triglyceride levels were reduced significantly with the supplements.

Notably, there was a significant association between triglycerides and disability levels, as measured with the Expanded Disability Status Scale. In particular, lower levels of these lipid molecules corresponded with less-severe disability.

No other molecules were associated with disability levels, but higher levels of total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL all were linked with worse walking function.

Levels of C reactive protein (CRP) — a marker of inflammation — also were  associated with the patient’s disability levels. These changes could be associated with decreases in body fat, as lower body fat was linked to lower levels of triglycerides and CRP.

Supplementation with “EGCG and coconut oil improve the functional capacity of patients with MS. This improvement could be due to the treatment’s impact on reducing blood [triglyceride] levels,” the researchers wrote.

The small number of patients and a potential inaccuracy in self-reported nutrition were noted by the researchers as limitations of the study.

“Therefore, it is necessary to further investigate lipid metabolism and its role in the progression and prognosis of MS,” they wrote.