Babassu Oil: Are There Health Benefits?

Babassu oil is a nutrient-rich, edible oil that comes from cold-pressing the nut of the babassu palm tree. This lightweight palm fruit oil has antioxidants and healthy fatty acids, making it similar to coconut oil. Babassu oil is also a solid at room temperature but softens to a liquid when in warmer environments or when applied to your skin. 

Attalea speciosa, or the babassu palm tree, is native to the Amazonian rainforest and found in Brazil, Bolivia, Suriname, and Guyana. The tree has a long history of use throughout its natural habitat, from folk and traditional medicine to construction materials, food, and cosmetic products. 

Babassu oil is primarily used for skin and hair care, but it can also be used in food and as a cooking oil. People throughout the Amazonian rainforest region also use the oil to help with wounds, inflammation, and other conditions. Research on babassu oil is beginning to support some of its traditional uses and claims, but studies are limited. 

Nutrition Information

One tablespoon of babassu oil contains:

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Babassu oil is a good source of: 

  • Vitamin E
  • Lauric fatty acid
  • Myristic fatty acid
  • Oleic fatty acid
  • Palmitic fatty acid
  • Stearic fatty acid

Potential Health Benefits of Babassu Oil

While there are limited studies on the potential health benefits of babassu oil, those that exist have shown promising results. Most research on babassu oil shows support for a few key benefits:

Helps with Skin and Wound Care

Babassu oil contains antioxidants and a large amount of fatty acids, which have been shown to provide a variety of benefits for your health. Of the total fatty acid content in babassu oil, almost half of it is lauric acid. The next most common fatty acids are oleic and myristic. 

Lauric acid is a medium-chain fatty acid with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, making it useful for keeping wounds clean and encouraging healing. You can also use babassu oil on your face to improve skin texture and reduce the bacteria that cause acne. Unlike coconut oil, babassu oil is suited to the body and face because it doesn't clog your pores.

Continued

Supports Cholesterol Levels

Some research shows that the short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids in babassu oil can help to support your cholesterol levels and aid in weight control. Lauric acid is one of the main fatty acids that may increase your HDL or good cholesterol and lead to a lower amount of total cholesterol in the body. 

Lauric acid and other medium-chain fatty acids are also more readily metabolized by the liver instead of being stored as fat. This quicker metabolism may help you to support any weight loss goals you may have.

Potential Risks of Babassu Oil

While you may experience certain health benefits from babassu oil, you could experience potential risks as well. Here are some potential risks of babassu oil:

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

It is unknown whether babassu oil has an influence on pregnancy and breastfeeding. The safest course of action is to avoid consuming or applying babassu oil if pregnant or nursing a child.

Thyroid Interaction

Babassu oil may have an effect on thyroid hormone levels, but there are no conclusive studies to determine whether babassu oil might cause any other hormone or medication interactions. You should consult with your doctor before introducing babassu oil into your diet. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 30, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Acta Botanica Brasilica: “Ethnobotany of babassu palm (Attalea speciosa Mart.) in the Tucurui Lake Protected Areas Mosaic - eastern Amazon.”

USDA FoodData Central: “Oil, babassu.”

RSC Advances: “Development and characterization of a babassu nut oil-based moisturizing cosmetic emulsion with a high sun protection factor.”

Journal of Investigative Dermatology: “Antimicrobial Property of Lauric Acid Against Propionibacterium acnes: Its Therapeutic Potential for Inflammatory Acne Vulgaris.”

Open Heart: “Lauric acid-rich medium-chain triglycerides can substitute for other oils in cooking applications and may have limited pathogenicity.”

The Journal of Nutrition: “Consumption of a Solid Fat Rich in Lauric Acid Results in a More Favorable Serum Lipid Profile in Healthy Men and Women than Consumption of a Solid Fat Rich in trans-Fatty Acids.”

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