Coconut Oil and its Health Benefits
There are around 2000 studies that back up coconut oil’s positive effects on health. Still, skeptics do not fully believe in what it can do because of the oil’s amount of saturated fat. Coconut oil’s fat is 90 percent saturated, which due to media hype, believed to be unhealthy that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
For millennia, coconut oil has been incorporated in the diet of tribes and communities like the Polynesian populations of Pukapuka and Tokelau. We saw that people in such places thrive, and maintain a healthy body.
Researchers found that, “vascular disease is uncommon in both populations and there is no evidence of the high saturated fat intake having a harmful effect.”
In another study, people in the Kitava in Papua New Guinea who eat a lot of fish, fruit, tubers and coconut oil, showed no health issues about stroke, sudden death, chest pain or heart disease.
Coconut oil has countless uses. Both internally, and as a cosmetic ingredient, this oil can bring tons of benefits. In this chapter, we’ll talk more about the wonders of coconut oil to health.
According to researches, coconut oil can bring the following benefits to well-being:
- For thyroid health — coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce inflammation, which can cause hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Unlike vegetable oil and soy oil, coconut oil doesn’t interfere with thyroid function as well.
- Supports heart health — studies show that by consuming coconut oil, people and animal get improved total, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, which are risk factors for heart disease. The oil’s saturated fat help increase the amount of “good” HDL cholesterol, while help convert “bad” LDL cholesterol, and decrease its harmful effects.
- Boosts brain function — ketones in coconut oil can be an alternative energy source for malfunctioning brains, and reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Improves energy — The oil has medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs), which can be directly converted to energy in the liver.
- Promotes well metabolism.
- Promotes good digestion — compared to vegetable oil that has longer chain fatty acids, coconut oil’s MCTs can be easily absorbed by the digestive tract. It doesn’t cause an insulin spike in the bloodstream as well.
- Supports weight loss — coconut oil is a great source of energy, and aids good digestion as well as increased metabolism that all help in weight loss.
- Aid in Crohn’s disease — plant-based fat that you can get in this oil can cause positive effects in the gut bacteria, which can reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
- For healthy skin — topical application of coconut oil can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It can also make the skin soft and supple, as well as strong connective tissues. This oil may also improve collagen production.
- Aid in Candida growth — according to a study published in mSphere, coconut oil can reduce the amount of Candida albicans yeast in the gut of mice.
- For oral health — massaging coconut oil onto gums for 10 minutes daily can reduce plaque and Streptococcus organisms that can cause tooth decay.
Coconut oil for cooking
Coconut oil is resistant to damages caused by heat, which means you can avoid consuming damaged, oxidized oils if you use it for cooking. Unlike processed vegetable oils like soybean, corn, cottonseed and canola oil that when heated, produces oxidized cholesterol, coconut oil is safer to use. Oxidized cholesterol can result in increased thromboxane formation, which causes blood to clot, as well as cyclic aldehydes and acrylamide.
Unfortunately, the American Heart Association (AHA) released an international presidential advisory that warns people to the use of coconut oil and butter. AHA rather recommends to go back to the use of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) such as margarine and vegetable oil.
AHA’s advisory that was released in June last year received criticisms from health experts — and they have a good reason. Critics say that the advisory was based on the low-fat myths born in the 1960s and early 1970s. Numerous studies have proven that what AHA holds onto is unreliable, but none of them were considered.
According to Dr. Cate Shanahan, a family physician and author of “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food,” the AHA’s message “is not only false, it is dangerous.” The doctor adds, AHA is not only making false claims, the studies they used as basis did not specifically involved coconut oil as well.
Furthermore, AHA also missed to note that partially hydrogenated coconut oils showed unfavorable results, rather than unrefined virgin coconut oil. These two oils are not the same with each other even if it both came from the same healthy source.
Why Vegetable Oil is Harmful
Current studies have shown how vegetable oils and margarine affect our health on a molecular level, and these effects don’t favor the heart. For instance, a biologist at the University of British Columbia, Sanjoy Ghosh, found that mitochondria cannot easily use PUFAs as fuel due to its molecular structure. Other studies showed that PUFAs can even kill cells, as it can impede cellular function.
PUFAs also tend to get stored in the liver, which may contribute to fatty liver disease, as well as in the arteries, because PUFAs are not readily stored in subcutaneous fat. According to Frances Sladek, Ph.D., a toxicologist and professor of cell biology at UC Riverside, PUFAs tend to behave like toxins in the body because it cannot easily be eliminated and turned into waste. Vegetable oils such as sunflower oil and corn oil can produce cancer-causing chemicals like aldehydes when heated.
Therefore, for a healthier body, it’s not true that replacing saturated fat over PUFA decreases the risk of heart attack. In fact, cases of coronary heart disease have not improved over the decades following AHAs recommendations.
Health Benefits of Medium-Chain Triglycerides
Coconut oil’s fat is 90 percent saturated, and two-thirds of the fats are medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. MCTs are divided into four groups according to their carbon length:
6 carbons (C6), caproic acid
8 carbons (C8), caprylic acid
10 carbons (C10), capric acid
12 carbons (C12), lauric acid
MCT have clinical uses, typically, when C8 and C10 are combined, it increases ketone levels. Other clinical uses are the following:
- Reduces appetite and weight
- Promotes better cognitive and neurological function
- Improves energy and athletic performance
- Promotes better mitochondrial function, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases
- Used for treatment of epilepsy as part of the diet
- Prevents nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Generally, the shorter the carbon chain, the more MCTs can be converted into ketones, the more they can be efficient as a mitochondrial fuel. Ketones can do better than sugar as a source of energy as it can pass the blood brain barrier. Unlike glucose, when ketones are burned, they produce lower reactive oxygen by-products and secondary free radicals.
Ketones also suppresses hunger by activating CCK, a hormone that controls feelings of fullness. When ketone levels rise, cravings and unnecessary snacking can be avoided. Other effects of MCTs are the following:
- Improves metabolism with its thermogenic effect.
- Cleanses the gut of harmful organisms like pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
MCT Oils as Healthy Alternative
Coconut oil has all kinds of MCTs, but 40 percent of it is comprised of lauric acid (C12), the longer chained MCT. However, one exception is fractionated oil that contains primarily C8 and C10. Lauric acid is known to have antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties. But it doesn’t increase the ketone levels in any significant levels since it’s a longer chained MCT.
MCTs that are potent and concentrated are more suggested than others that also have clinical uses. Most commercially available brands have 50/50 C8 and to C10 combination. C8 (Caprylic acid) are mostly preferred as it can convert ketones faster. It also works easier for digestion.
Both concentrated MCT and coconut oil can be taken daily. However, you must start with small amounts. It can cause loose stools and GI effects before you develop tolerance. Thus, begin with no more than 1 teaspoon daily of MCT oil or coconut oil. Use it in combination with another fat such as nuts, ghee in your coffee, or combine it with your salad dressing. Once your digestive tract becomes used to it, you can increase your dose to 4 tablespoons of MCT oil or coconut oil per day.
Begin with small doses again if ever you stop taking the oil for a while. Allow you gut to re-adjust again. MCT oil is easier to digest than other fats for those who are struggling to malabsorption, leaky gut, Crohn’s disease or gallbladder impairment.
Make a Healthy Coffee
You can give your coffee a little health-boost by adding grass fed butter, MCT oil or C8 to it. Instead of adding just your normal sugar and cream, you can create a coffee that is brain-amplifying using this recipe from the Bulletproof blog:
- Brew 1 cup (8 to 12 ounces) of coffee using filtered water with 2 1/2 heaping tablespoons of freshly ground organic coffee beans. A French press will help preserve beneficial oils in the coffee that would otherwise be filtered out.
- Add anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of C8 MCT oil. Alternatively, you could use organic coconut oil.
- Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of grass fed, unsalted butter or grass fed ghee.
- Mix the ingredients in a blender for 20 to 30 seconds until it looks like a foamy latte.
Other Uses of Coconut Oil
Make sure to stock a jar of coconut oil in your house as it has many uses both in the kitchen and other aspects. You can incorporate this oil to your diet, and you can also use it as personal care products, replacing other brands that can be hazardous and ineffective. Use coconut oil as a moisturizer, hair mask, shaving lotion, cleanser and makeup remover, body scrub, toothpaste and more.
It’s time to reconsider your options if you thought coconut oil is bad for your health. Do some research and look for evidence that prove such claims. Saturated fats found in this oil will not make you gain weight, nor it will increase your risk for heart attack. In fact, it does otherwise. Coconut oil has tons of benefits when it comes to its effects on health, including heart health.
It’s time to replace your margarine and vegetable oils with coconut oil. Then, after about three months check your health, and your blood vessels. Compare the results. Consuming this oil can reduce your risk for diseases such as heart attacks even if your total cholesterol levels rise up. You may begin adding coconut oil to your coffee or smoothie.