Coconut oil is regarded as the highest source of medium chain fatty acids, or triglycerides (MCT’s) which impart a number of health benefits.
In the past we used to believe that all saturated fatty acids including those present in coconut oil were unhealthy but now we know that saturated fat present in coconut oil is beneficial because unlike the harmful long chain fatty acids found in animal fats such as lard or butter, the coconut oil contains very beneficial medium chain fatty acids.
Coconut oil is an excellent food if you need a quick energy boost without producing an insulin spike in the bloodstream. MCFAs present in coconut oil are immediately converted by our liver into energy rather than being stored as fat.
Furthermore, coconut oil is a unique type of fat because it has ability to improve functioning of the thyroid gland which is responsible for proper metabolism. In this way coconut oil helps to eliminate hypothyroid symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, or hair loss.
A 2009 issue of Lipids Journal Research which deals with the effects of coconut oil on our body’s fat metabolism says that, ‘coconut oil seems to promote reduction in abdominal obesity, which is the most dangerous type of obesity.
In one of the studies scientists divided obese women into two groups. First one was given coconut oil to eat every day with their meals while the second group had the same amount of soybean oil for 3 months. During the experiment all women were on the same diet and exercised for almost an hour every day. After three months the participants who consumed coconut oil lost more body weight, had smaller waistlines, lower bad LDL cholesterol, and higher good HDL cholesterol.
In another study on a group of 20 obese volunteers representing different sexes with body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30 all participants consumed 10ml of cold pressed coconut oil 3 times a day before meals. At the end of the experiment both females and males significantly reduced their body weight and waist circumference with females gaining slightly better results than males. Specialists believe that it is the medium chain triglycerides (MTFs) as well as the lauric acid found in coconut oil which are responsible for those positive results.
Apart from improving our metabolism coconut oil can fight off pathogens such as bacteria, viruses (including HIV), and fungi. In addition, it also promotes heart health and healthy brain function.
Coconut oil is the highest source of lauric acid, which is rarely found in nature. Lauric acid is converted in our body to monolaurin (a monoglyceride also found in breast milk) which boosts immunity of breast fed babies and is actually able to destroy gram-negative bacteria and lipid-coated viruses such as influenza, HIV, herpes, or measles.
Furthermore, according to one of the most exciting discoveries coconut oil can be helpful in reducing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease because medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) found in coconut oil are also a main source of ketones, which can be used in our body as an alternate source of brain fuel thus slowing down the dementia.
There are some examples of patients with Alzheimer’s disease who were able to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s taking large doses of coconut oil on a regular basis. One of them is Steve Newport who even managed to reverse some of the symptoms after his wife, Dr Mary Newport added coconut oil to his diet.
In Alzheimer’s disease, due to insulin problems, brain cells are unable to use glucose as their primary fuel which eventually causes their death. But MCTs from coconut oil trigger the metabolism of ketones in the liver, which the brain of Alzheimer’s patients easily accepts and uses as an alternative fuel.
Before buying coconut oil make sure it is a cold pressed, organic, and unrefined product.
Unlike many other oils (especially soya oils, sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or corn oil) coconut oil can withstand high temperatures without being damaged, and for this reason it is much safer to use it for cooking and baking.
It is also interesting that coconut oil even if it is stored at room temperature for a long time, does not go rancid, which proves that it has a powerful antioxidant effect.
I myself love the taste of coconut oil and usually consume about one tablespoon a day with brown rice, baked potatoes and other foods.
I don’t recommend the liquid coconut oils as it is almost completely deprived of the most important lauric acid.
There are more health benefits of coconut oil confirmed by studies which are listed in the links below:
Assuncco ML, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF, Cabral CR Jr, Florêncio TM. Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids. 2009 Jul; 44(7):593-601. Epub 2009 May 13.
Kai Ming Liau et.al (2011) An Open-Label Pilot Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Virgin Coconut Oil in Reducing Visceral Adiposity. ISRN Pharmacol. 2011
Assuncao ML (2009): Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601.
Hashim SA, Bergen SS, Krell K, van Itallie TB. (1964) Intestinal absorption and mode of transport in portal vein of medium chain fatty acids. Journal of Clinical Investigation 43
De Roos N et.al (2001): 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. Journal of Nutrition 131:242-245.