Coconut oil, or copra oil, is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). It has various applications. Because of its high saturated fat content, it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant torancidification, lasting up to six months at 24 °C (75 °F) without spoiling.
Due to its high levels of saturated fat, the World Health Organization, United States Food and Drug Administration, International College of Nutrition, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, British National Health Service, British Nutrition Foundation and Dietitians of Canada advise against regular consumption of coconut oil.
Coconut oil is one of the few foods that can be classified as a “superfood.”
Its benefits include weight loss, better brain function, skin health and many more.
Coconut Oil Contains Fatty Acids With Powerful Medicinal Properties
Coconut oil has been demonized in the past because it contains saturated fat.
In fact, coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fat known to man, with almost 90% of the fatty acids in it being saturated
However, new data is showing that saturated fats are mostly harmless. Many studies with hundreds of thousands of people have found no link to heart disease (2).
Additionally, coconut oil doesn’t contain your average saturated fats, like the ones you would find in cheese or steak.
They contain Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) – which are fatty acids of a medium length.
Most of the fatty acids in the diet are long-chain fatty acids, but the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolized differently.
They go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source of energy or turned into so-called ketones, which can have therapeutic effects on brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
Coconut oil contains a lot of medium chain triglycerides, which are metabolized differently and can have therapeutic effects on several brain disorders.
Coconut is an exotic food in the Western world, primarily consumed by health conscious people.
However, in some parts of the world, coconut is a dietary staple that people have thrived on for many generations.
The best example of such a population is the Tokelauans, which live in the South Pacific.
They eat over 60% of their calories from coconuts and are the biggest consumers of saturated fat in the world.
These people are in great health, with no evidence of heart disease
Plenty of populations around the world have thrived for multiple generations eating massive amounts of coconut fat.
Obesity is currently one of the biggest health problems in the world.
While some people think obesity is only a matter of calories, others (myself included) believe that the sources of those calories are important too.
It is a fact that different foods affect our bodies and hormones in different ways. In this regard, a calorie is not a calorie.
The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil can increase how many calories you burn compared to the same amount of other fats
One study found that 15-30 grams of MCTs per day increased 24 hour energy expenditure by 5%, totalling about 120 calories per day
Bottom Line: The medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil have been shown to increase calories burned over 24 hours by as much as 5%, potentially leading to significant weight loss over the long term.
Almost 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil is the 12-carbon Lauric Acid.
When lauric acid is digested, it forms a substance called monolaurin.
Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi. For example, these substances have been shown to kill the bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus (a very dangerous pathogen) and the yeast Candida Albicans, a common source of yeast infections in humans
The fatty acids and breakdown products in coconut oil can kill harmful pathogens, potentially helping to prevent infections.
Coconut Oil Can Reduce Your Hunger, Helping You Eat Less.
One interesting feature of coconut oil is that it can reduce your hunger.
This may be related to the way the fatty acids in it are metabolized, because ketones can have an appetite reducing effect.
In one study, varying amounts of medium and long chain triglycerides were fed to 6 healthy men.
The men eating the most MCTs ate 256 fewer calories per day, on average.
Another study in 14 healthy men discovered that those who ate the most MCTs at breakfast ate fewer calories at lunch.
These studies were small and only done for a short period of time. If this effect were to persist over the long term, it could have a dramatic influence on body weight over a period of several years.
The fatty acids in coconut oil can significantly reduce appetite, which may positively affect body weight over the long term.
The Fatty Acids in Coconut Oil Are Turned into Ketones, Which Can Reduce Seizures
A so-called ketogenic (very low carb, very high fat) diet is currently being studied to treat various disorders.
The best known therapeutic application of this diet is treating drug-resistant epilepsy in children.
This diet involves eating very little carbohydrates and large amounts of fat, leading to greatly increased concentrations of ketones in the blood.
For some reason, this diet can dramatically reduce the rate of seizures in epileptic children, even those who haven’t had success with multiple different types of drugs.
Because the MCTs in coconut oil get shipped to the liver and turned into ketones, they are often used in epileptic patients to induce ketosis while allowing for a bit more carbs in the diet.
Bottom Line: The MCTs in coconut oil can increase blood concentration of ketone bodies, which can help reduce seizures in epileptic children.
Coconut Oil Can Improve Blood Cholesterol Levels. Coconut oil contains healthy saturated fats. The saturated fats in coconut oil may increase “good” HDL cholesterol in your body, but also help convert the “bad” LDL cholesterol into a less harmful form.
Coconut oil may also improve other risk factors and therefore protect against heart disease.
There are also rat studies showing that coconut oil reduces triglycerides, total and LDL cholesterol, increases HDL and improves blood coagulation factors and antioxidant status.
Coconut Oil Can Protect Hair Against Damage, Moisturize Skin and Function as Sunscreen. Coconut oil can serve various purposes that have nothing to do with eating it.
Many people are using it for cosmetic purposes and to improve the health and appearance of their skin and hair.
Studies on individuals with dry skin show that coconut oil can improve the moisture and fat content of the skin.
Coconut oil can also be very protective against hair damage and one study shows effectiveness as sunscreen, blocking about 20% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays (21, 22)
Another application is using it like mouthwash in a process called oil pulling, which can kill some of the harmful bacteria in the mouth, improve dental health and reduce bad breath.