Once vilified as food that might be bad for us, coconut oil has reached the status of a super food that seems now to be the polar opposite of its earlier reputation. There are many noted health benefits of coconut oil, mostly due to its particular composition and balance of fatty acids.
1. Brain Health
Coconut oil contains saturated fat, but not the same type of saturated fats that are in foods like steak and cheese (long-chain fatty acids). Instead, coconut oil is composed of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are metabolized very differently. MCTs travel directly from the digestive tract to the liver, where they are quickly used as an energy source, or turned into ketone bodies, which can have therapeutic effects on the brain.
In a low-carb, high-fat (ketogenic or ketone rich) diet, the lack of carbohydrates increases blood levels of ketones. This diet has often been suggested for those with ADHD, and is being studied for therapeutic application in epilepsy. Positive studies have already shown cognitive improvement in Alzheimer's.
In epilepsy, ketones appear to reduce seizures. In Alzheimer's, the brain seems unable to utilize glucose for mental energy, but it can use ketones as an energy substitute, with immediate results. This may be similar to the ADHD connection.
This is why coconut oil is being examined so carefully. It may be beneficial for providing ketones without having to do away with carbohydrates.
2. Heart Health
It is amazing that an oil rich in saturated fat might promote heart health, but descriptive studies suggest a link, possibly because of the MCTs: The Tokelauans of the South Pacific get over 60% of their calories from coconuts, consuming more saturated fat than most of the natural world does, yet they have virtually no heart disease.
Researchers now believe that many saturated fats actually raise HDL (good cholesterol) as well as larger LDL particles, which may help with cleaning out our arteries. In one study, coconut oil reduced LDL cholesterol when substituted for soy bean oil.
Coconut oil also seems to reduce triglycerides, improve blood antioxidant levels and coagulation factors. Many researchers believe that these factors should improve cardiovascular profiles over the long term in those who consume virgin coconut oil.
Virgin coconut oil has a unique composition of fatty acids.
3. Weight Loss
Obesity is approaching smoking as one of the most serious health risks in the modern world. More and more research is pointing to the source of calories as a factor that is almost as important to weight as calories themselves are.
It appears the the MTCs in coconut oil increase the rate at which people burn calories. Another way in which coconut oil seems to help with weight loss is by reducing appetite. Some speculate that ketones are at play here too, since ketones are known to keep hunger at bay.
Coconut oil seems to reduce fat to muscle ratio in the abdominal area, which is where fat is most dangerous (and often, most unwanted!) Waist circumference is associated with a greater incidence of disease, as opposed to fat anywhere else on the body.
Studies have shown reduced abdominal fat in those who make no other dietary or activity changes other than adding virgin coconut oil to their diets.
4. Immune Health
Nearly half of the fatty acids in coconut oil are Lauric acid. When coconut oil is transformed through enzyme activity, it forms a monoglyceride as well, known as monolaurin (found only in coconut oil and human breast milk). Both Lauric acid and monolaurin are powerful antipathogens, fighting fungi, bacteria and viruses, such as Candida Albicans, Staphylococcus Aureus and influenza, respectively.
5. Skin Protection
It also acts as a physical barrier, beefing up whatever sun protection you use and keeping microbes out.
6. Dental Health
Those same anti-pathogenic properties make coconut oil an excellent oral health aid that can kill microbes in the mouth and improve breath.
To enjoy all these health benefits, the oil should be virgin coconut oil, not refined.
Visit Biconi to purchase some of the highest quality virgin coconut oil products available today.
Cullum-Dugan, D. (2014). Get the Facts on Coconut Oil. Environmental Nutrition, 37(1), 6.
Schardt, D. (2012). Coconut Oil. Nutrition Action Health Letter, 39(5), 10-11.
The secrets of Healthy Fats. (2013). Better Nutrition, 75(7), 29-32.
Vera, I. (2014). Coconut. Alive, (377), 67.