Coconut Water - Sports Drink with Anti-Aging Benefit?
Coconut water, also known as coconut liquid, is gaining popularity. This is probably because it contains many minerals, but little fat and a low amount of carbohydrates. Accordingly, the calorie content is low at 19 kcal per 100 g. Coconut water is the liquid found inside the coconut and should not be confused with coconut milk, which is made from the flesh of the fruit.
Is Coconut Water Suitable as a Sports Drink?
Coconut water is often equated with sports drinks because they contain almost the same electrolytes. Electrolytes are necessary for maintaining water balance. These include potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and phosphorus. Except for potassium, the values are nearly identical.
In 2012, researchers from the University of Memphis compared coconut water with carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks in terms of hydration and physical performance 1. After a 60-minute treadmill session to induce dehydration, 12 trained men were given water, pure coconut water, coconut water concentrate, or a sports drink. The researchers found no significant differences in performance between the drinks during a subsequent session after three hours. All tested drinks were able to promote rehydration and support fluid intake and subsequent exercises. However, participants felt slightly bloated and experienced stomach discomfort with coconut water.
In a similar study from 2012 with eight participants, coconut water emerged as a natural refreshing beverage that can be used for rehydration after exercise 2. However, coconut water caused less nausea, bloating, and no stomach discomfort in this study.
In the context of coconut water as a sports drink, the low carbohydrate content (3.71 g per 100 g) is also noticeable. Especially for endurance athletes, it is essential to consume more carbohydrates to maintain performance and counteract muscle breakdown processes. Athletes should consume about 30 to 60 g of carbohydrates per hour during training sessions lasting 1 to 2.5 hours 3. Therefore, coconut water is not recommended in this regard due to its low carbohydrate content.
Coconut water should ultimately be used sparingly as an electrolyte drink because the electrolyte concentrations are imbalanced. Coconut water contains 5 to 15 times more potassium than regular sports drinks. However, the sodium content is too low. Sodium is mainly lost through sweating. Coconut water is suitable as a drink for people engaging in less strenuous physical activities with lower sweat production 4.
Two members of the cytokinin family, trans-zeatin and kinetin, have been discovered in coconut water, which demonstrate anti-aging benefits on human fibroblast cells (main components of connective tissue) 7. For example, the Malaysian "Green Dwarf" variety contains 14 μg per liter of trans-zeatin and 4 μg of kinetin.
Does Coconut Water Help Against Cancer?
According to another study, cytokinins are the most important components in coconut water 8. Cytokinins also have potential anti-cancer benefits.
In 2014, scientists discovered for the first time that coconut water contains the anionic anti-cancer peptide Cn-AMP2 9. According to the scientists, anionic defense peptides show activities against human glioblastomas (malignant brain tumors). Therefore, coconut water and its compounds could be considered for the development of novel treatments for cancer.
Coconut Water for Hypertension
In a small study, the benefit of 300 ml of coconut water taken twice daily in treating hypertension was investigated 10. The blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) of seven individuals was measured for two weeks without treatment and for two weeks during the treatment. In five out of seven subjects, coconut water showed a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure. In two subjects, the diastolic blood pressure also decreased significantly.
Coconut water also contains vitamin C (antioxidant, supports the immune system; 2.4 mg per 100 g) and B vitamins. Among the latter are higher amounts of vitamin B3 (also known as niacin; 80 µg), vitamin B2 (also riboflavin; 50 µg), and vitamin B5 (also pantothenic acid; 40 µg). They play important roles in cellular metabolism.
Coconut Water Contains Arginine
The water of the coconut is low in amino acids. The only one that occurs in higher amounts is the semi-essential amino acid arginine. Arginine is converted into nitric oxide in the body. This positively affects blood vessels, causing them to dilate and improve blood flow.
Antioxidants in Coconut Water
Coconut water has antioxidant properties that eliminate free radicals. 11 12. In a study (in vitro), the antioxidant potential of water from four coconut varieties was examined and compared with industrially extracted and freeze-dried water. 13. All varieties exhibited good antioxidant potential in the elimination of free radicals (DPPH; test substance) and in protecting lipids against the formation of oxidation products. The "Green Dwarf" variety, in particular, provided extremely effective protection. The antioxidant benefits were significantly reduced in industrially extracted water. In another analysis by the researchers, caffeic acid (a secondary plant compound) was discovered with a concentration of approximately 1 µg per ml. It was particularly effective in protecting lipids.
Excessive consumption of coconut water is harmful
Due to its unusually high potassium content, there can also be side effects. When consumed excessively, coconut water can cause potassium excess (hyperkalemia) 14. According to the source, excessive consumption (8x 330 ml per day) of coconut water by a previously healthy 42-year-old man led to fainting and cardiac arrhythmias. He played tennis outdoors all day at temperatures above 32 °C. Suddenly, he experienced dizziness and briefly lost consciousness. Afterwards, he complained of weakness and dizziness. He was disoriented and had very low blood pressure and a low pulse. Within a short period, he consumed about 5.5 g of potassium, which, in combination with acute kidney failure and rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of skeletal muscles; also triggered by intense exercise), was life-threatening. His condition improved in the hospital. Especially people with impaired kidney function should avoid coconut water.
Using Coconut Water
Coconut water has a sweet taste with a hint of acidity.
Coconut water from ripe coconuts can also be mixed with lemon juice to create a refreshing summer beverage 15. Additionally, coconut water can be the main ingredient in a fermented functional beverage 16. Moreover, coconut water goes well with fruit salads and smoothies.
Buying Coconut Water
It is recommended to buy raw and untreated coconut water. Although it may be slightly more expensive, the naturally occurring ingredients are not lost through processing. Processed coconut water often has added sugar. You can find coconut water in health food stores, organic shops, and now even in drugstores.