I am sure you have heard the entire rave about coconut oil! Benefits of coconut oil ranging from, “cosmetic purposes i.e. glowing and moisturized hair as well as skin, weight loss assist” and even the ludicrous,” dribble some on your man and he will be acting right”. Let us see how much of that we can review in this blog.
Composition of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is derived from the nut, or dried fruit of the coconut palm tree. Although it is an oil, at room temperature, it is a solid with the consistency of vegetable shortening. It is 100% fat, with 80-90% saturated fat. Fat consists of smaller molecules called fatty acids.
The predominant fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid at 47%. Others include, palmitic and myristic acids, along with trace amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Coconut oil contains no fiber, nor cholesterol. It contains plant sterols, whose chemical structure mimics blood cholesterol.
The amount in a few tablespoons of oil is not enough however, to block absorption of cholesterol in the body. It also contains traces of vitamins and minerals cited as great benefits of coconut oil.
What Makes Coconut Oil Unique
So why coconut oil? The saturated fats found in coconut oil work differently in the body, as compared to other dietary fats. The technical term for fat is triglyceride. It serves two purposes, one, is to be burned for energy and the second is stored as body fat.
Fatty acids aid the body to burn fat while quickly energizing the brain. Most of the dietary fats are classified as long-chain triglycerides (LCT’s). Coconut oil boasts of shorter fatty acid chains called medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s). The lengths of these chains are determined by how many carbon atoms are attached to each.
The more the carbon atoms, like in the case of LCT’s, 10-12, the longer it takes them to metabolize. These MCT’s go straight to the liver where they are immediately used for energy. This promotes satiety and prevents storage of fat. They are also turned into ketones.
What you should know about ketones
What are ketones you ask? Ketones are the substances produced when the liver breaks down large amounts of fat. In addition, ketones can cross from the blood to the brain. They serve as an alternative energy source to the brain, which uses glucose to fuel.
MCT’s encourage the body to burn more fat compared to LCT’s. A study conducted, that only examined effects of MCT’s excluding lauric acid showed that, there is a 5% increase of energy expenditure from 15-30 grams of MCT’s per day.
Note that, research for health claims for coconut oil use a formulation of 100% MCT’s and not the commercial coconut oil available from multiple outlets. In addition, coconut oil is calorie dense, with 120 calories per tablespoon. Therefore, consumption in large amounts cause weight gain if unchecked.
Studies conducted on the benefits of coconut oil on heart health from populations in Papua New Guinea, Philippines and the South Pacific, to whom coconut is a dietary staple shows:
Reduce rate of cardiac diseases and skin health
Lower rates of cardiovascular disease among the participants. The natural saturated fats in coconut oil boosts good HDL cholesterol in the body and aid in converting the bad, LDL cholesterol into a less harmful form.
Epidemiological studies show that it improves the health and appearance of the skin, raise and lock in moisture content of dry skin and reduce the symptoms of eczema.
It acts as a weak sunscreen, blocking about 20% of the sun’s harmful UV rays, thus protecting the hair as well as the skin.
Note that these people consume a different type of coconut than that which is used typically in the Western diet. They consume the completely unprocessed coconut, which is the fleshy part, milk, as well as the cream along with an indigenous fiber-rich diet consisting of fish, fruits and vegetables.
Are said to treat epilepsy
MCT’s found in coconut oil are being studied to treat disorders like drug resistant epilepsy in children. The ketogenic diet reduces the number of seizures that are oft, for the children who do not have success with drugs. This particular diet that is low in carbs and high in fats with modifications to include more carbs and MCT’s can be used to induce ketosis – very high ketone concentration in the blood- and treat epilepsy.
Improves brain functions
A 2006 study shows that MCT’s improve brain function in people with milder forms of Alzheimer’s disease. The brains ability to use glucose for energy is reduced in people with Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities. Ketones provide an alternative source for these malfunctioning brain cells.
Fights harmful bacteria
Oral? Yes, oral hygiene. Although the evidence is weak, research shows that pulling, a process of swishing the oil as a mouthwash for extended periods could be beneficial. The practice hails from Ancient Indian times. It reduces inflammation and fights harmful bacteria.
Possesses high antimicrobial effects
Test tube studies show that coconut oil has antimicrobial effects. It contains 12-carbon lauric acid, that when digested forms monolaurin. Lauric and monolaurin kill harmful fungi, viruses and bacteria e.g. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that causes staph infections and the common yeast infection, Candida albicans.
The American Heart Association (AHA) in 2017 suggests limiting the use of all saturated fats. People with heart disease are advised against consuming more than 6% of total calories from saturated fats. As the demand for plant based food increases, especially coconut oil’s soaring reviews, limit use of the oil in the diet.
Periodically alternate with other oils for a healthy pattern. Choose organic, virgin coconut oil with disregard to the refined versions.