Enhanced memory in Wistar rats by virgin coconut oil is associated with increased antioxidative, cholinergic activities and reduced oxidative stress

Pharm Biol. 2017 Dec;55(1):825-832. doi: 10.1080/13880209.2017.1280688.


Context: Virgin coconut oil (VCO) has been reported to possess antioxidative, anti-inflammatory and anti-stress properties.

Objective: Capitalizing on these therapeutic effects, this study investigated for the first time the potential of VCO on memory improvement in vivo.

Materials and methods: Thirty male Wistar rats (7-8 weeks old) were randomly assigned to five groups (n = six per group). Treatment groups were administered with 1, 5 and 10 g/kg VCO for 31 days by oral gavages. The cognitive function of treated-rats were assessed using the Morris Water Maze Test. Brains were removed, homogenized and subjected to biochemical analyses of acetylcholine (ACh) and acetylcholinesterase (AChE), antioxidants [superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione (GSH), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and glutathione reductase (GRx)], lipid peroxidase [malondialdehyde (MDA)] as well as nitric oxide (NO). α-Tocopherol (αT; 150 mg/kg) was also included for comparison purposes.

Results: VCO-fed Wistar rats exhibited significant (p < 0.05) improvement of cognitive functions [reduced escape latency (≥ 1.8 s), reduced escape distance (≥ 0.3 m) and increased total time spent on platform (≥ 1 s)]. The findings were accompanied by elevation of ACh (15%), SOD (8%), CAT (≥ 54%), GSH (≥ 20%) and GPx (≥ 12%) and reduction of AChE (≥17%), MDA (> 33%) and NO (≥ 34%). Overall, memory improvement by VCO was comparable to αT.

Discussion and conclusion: VCO has the potential to be used as a memory enhancer, the effect of which was mediated, at least in part, through enhanced cholinergic activity, increased antioxidants level and reduced oxidative stress.

Keywords: Nutraceutical; neuroinflammation; neuroprotective.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / analysis
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Cholinergic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Coconut Oil
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Antioxidants
  • Cholinergic Agents
  • Plant Oils
  • Acetylcholine
  • Coconut Oil

Grants and funding

We acknowledge receipt of financial grant support from Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) [Reference no: 600-RMI/ST/ERGS 5/3 (52/2011) and 600-RMI/LRGS 5/3 (3/2012)].