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The Many Benefits of Coconut Oil
Posted by SoundHealth, in General
Topics: Coconut Coconut Oil Saturated Fat

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There are many health and nutritional benefits to be gained from coconut and coconut oil, and to a lesser extent from palm kernel oil, which is from a different part of the same plant.

Coconut oil has got a bad reputation because it consists of about 92% saturated fat. However, these are naturally-occuring saturated fats with a different structure from the usual long-chain fatty acids found in most saturated fats. Coconut oil consists of over 50% medium chain fatty acids or triglycerides; these are lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid.

Some saturated fat is necessary in the diet. It is absorbed in the intestines and carries the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Saturated fats along with cholesterol are also built into cell membranes, strengthening cell walls so they keep their shape.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that the substances found in coconuts and coconut oil can prevent weight loss, heart disease, fight infections, improve the absorption of nutrients and stay healthy in ways that no other fat can match. coconut oil not only has nutritional and health benefits, but it can be used as an effective substitute for many beauty products.

Some of the many advantages of coconut oil include:

Lauric acid for Health

Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid which is abundant in coconut oil, and considered responsible for many of its health benefits.

One of the leading authorities on fats and oils and nutritionist / biochemist, Dr. Mary Enig explains,

"Approximately 50% of the fatty acids in coconut fat are lauric acid. Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid, which has the additional beneficial function of being formed into monolaurin in the human or animal body. Monolaurin is the antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used by the human or animal to destroy lipid coated viruses such as HIV, herpes, cytomegalovirus, influenza, various pathogenic bacteria including listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and protozoa such as giardia lamblia. Some studies have also shown some antimicrobial effects of the free lauric acid." [1]

Research carried out over four decades concerning coconut oil in the diet and heart disease is quite clear: coconut oil has been shown to be beneficial.

One study reviewed the published literature of "coconut oil's effect on serum cholesterol and atherogenesis" and have concluded that when "...[coconut oil is] fed physiologically with other fats or adequately supplemented with linoleic acid, coconut oil is a neutral fat in terms of atherogenicity." [2]

Weight Loss

Even though coconut oil is a fat, studies have actually shown that it promotes weight loss. This is again due to the healthy medium chain fatty acids.

These fatty acids are shorter and contain less energy and do not circulate in the bloodstream like other fats, but are sent directly to the liver where they are immediately converted into energy, just like carbohydrates. So the body uses the fat in coconut oil to produce energy, rather than be stored as body fat.

Medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil also speed up the body's metabolism burning more calories and promoting weight loss. The weight-loss effects of coconut oil have clearly been demonstrated in many research papers.

One study used coconut oil to enrich a high fat diet and the results reported were that the "coconut-oil enriched diet is effective in...[producing]...a decrease in white fat stores." [3]

Replacing other fats with coconut oil means that the rate at which your body stores fat slows down, because more of your dietary fat is metabolized for energy.

Fights Microbes

The fatty acids present in coconut oil make it uniquely effective at protecting health, by killing bacteria and viruses. This includes lauric acid, which breaks down into monolaurin, and kills bacteria and viruses; and caprylic acid which kills fungus (like Athlete's Foot) and yeast (eg candida).

Monolaurin is created when either your saliva or the bacteria on your skin break down lauric acid into single units. It has been found to kill microbes on the skin, sinuses and digestive tract before they can enter the immune system, so the immune system doesn't need to spend its time and energy fighting them.

Dr Enig in her paper on the health benefits of coconut oil describes coconut and its edible products such as desiccated coconut and coconut oil as "a functional food, coconut has fatty acids that provide both energy (nutrients) and raw material for antimicrobial fatty acids and monoglycerides (functional components) when it is eaten."[1]

Coconut oil has been found to be effective for skin conditions like rash, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. It can be applied topically by rubbing it into the skin.

It has also been found effective when significant quantities are in the diet, because it forms a self-renewing protective layer as the oils are released throughout the day, forming a protective barrier that stops microbes from entering the body.

Replacement for many beauty products

Coconut oil can be used in as an effective replacement of many beauty products, including:

  • Antiseptic and anti-fungal cream: Combine it with crushed garlic, and apply liberally on affected area for powerful antiseptic or antifungal relief.

  • Anti-dandruff medication: Rub in coconut oil to keep the scalp healthy.

  • Hair conditioner: For healthy skin and hair, put some coconut oil on your fingertips and massage into your scalp after showering in place of conditioner.

  • Skin cream: rub coconut oil into the skin to combat acne, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, itchy skin, and other skin problems. It is also an effective moisturizer for dry skin or to keep skin soft and smooth.

  • Lip balm: coconut oil moisturizes and soothes dry and chapped lips.

Tips for Using coconut Oil

  • When buying coconut oil, look for virgin coconut oil, this is oil that has not been refined, bleached or deodorized.

  • Coconut oil can be kept at room temperature. It becomes liquid on a warm day and on cool days it solidifies, but this does not affect the quality of the oil. Good quality coconut oil should be white when solidified and clear when a liquid. Solid coconut oil will quickly become liquid when rubbed between warm fingers.

References

  • [1] MG Enig Coconut: In Support of Good health in the 21st Century American Journal of Clinical nutrition, 2001.

  • [2] Blackburn GL, Kater G, Mascioli EA, Kowalchuk M, Babayan VK, kBistrian BR. A reevaluation of coconut oil's effect on serum cholesterol and atherogenesis. The Journal of the Philippine Medical Association 1989;65:144-152.

  • [3] Portillo MP, Serra F, Simon E, del Barrio AS, Palou A. Energy restriction with high-fat diet enriched with coconut oil gives higher UCP1 and lower white fat in rats. International Journal of obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders 1998;22:974-9.


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