Virgin coconut oil abrogates depression-associated cognitive deficits by modulating hippocampal antioxidant balance, GABAergic and glutamatergic receptors in mice

Drug Metab Pers Ther. 2021 Dec 9;37(2):177-190. doi: 10.1515/dmpt-2021-0126.


Objectives: GABA and glutamate neurotransmission play critical roles in both the neurobiology of depression and cognition; and Virgin coconut oil (VCO) is reported to support brain health. The present study investigated the effect of VCO on depression-associated cognitive deficits in mice.

Methods: Thirty male mice divided into five groups were either exposed to chronic unpredicted mild stress (CUMS) protocol for 28 days or pre-treated with 3 mL/kg b. wt. of VCO for 21 days or post-treated with 3 mL/kg b. wt. of VCO for 21 days following 28 days of CUMS exposure. Mice were subjected to behavioural assessments for depressive-like behaviours and short-term memory, and thereafter euthanised. Hippocampal tissue was dissected from the harvested whole brain for biochemical and immunohistochemical evaluations.

Results: Our results showed that CUMS exposure produced depressive-like behaviours, cognitive deficits and altered hippocampal redox balance. However, treatment with VCO abrogated depression-associated cognitive impairment, and enhanced hippocampal antioxidant concentration. Furthermore, immunohistochemical evaluation revealed significant improvement in GABAA and mGluR1a immunoreactivity following treatment with VCO in the depressed mice.

Conclusions: Therefore, findings from this study support the dietary application of VCO to enhance neural resilience in patients with depression and related disorders.

Keywords: cognitive deficits; depression; hippocampal GABAergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission; hippocampal oxidative stress; virgin coconut oil.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants* / pharmacology
  • Coconut Oil
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / drug therapy
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Hippocampus
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid


  • Antioxidants
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Coconut Oil