Coconut oil was given a bad rap for years because 90% of its oil is saturated. Most of the saturated fats in our diets are long chain triglycerides (LCT) and have 14 to 18 carbon atoms. Coconut oil is a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) containing just 5 to 12 carbon atoms. While LCTs are hard for the body to metabolize, MCTs are easily converted to ketone bodies by the liver, and used as alternative energy source to glucose. Here is just a handful of the possible benefits of consuming coconut oil:
1. Brain Health – A famous 2004 study looked at the effects of coconut oil on a small group of people with either Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment. They found a measurable difference using cognitive tests with just ONE dose.
Our brain cells use glucose as their primary fuel, but as we age it seems that our brain’s ability to use glucose is reduced, especially for those with insulin resistance. Ketone bodies made by the body from MCTs can be used as an alternative fuel supply. It’s important to note that glucose issues in the brain could start 10 or 20 years before there are any symptoms.
Here’s a great story about Dr Mary Newport and her husband.
2. Belly Fat – Abdominal obesity, or central obesity, may be one of the best indicators of serious health risks, especially heart disease. Abdominal fat is measured using a hip-to-waist ratio. Coconut oil has been found in 2 studies to reduce belly fat in both men and women. On the topic of heart health… coconut oil has been shown to boost HDL levels.
3. Antifungal – A 2004 study looked at 52 different Candida species in vitro. The study looked at both coconut oil and the drug fluconazole. Coconut oil held its own… in fact, Candida albicans were more susceptible to the coconut oil at 100%.
4. Inflammation – I love this one, because coconut oil gets a 2fer. A 2010 study done by Payap University shows a direct connection between coconut oil and reduced inflammation, but the indirect relationship is perhaps even more important.
A proper Omega-3:6 ratio (roughly 1:1) is vital to our bodies ability to manage inflammation. The Standard American Diet (SAD), throws this ratio way off (10:1 – 20:1). Simply substituting coconut oil for vegetable oil when cooking, will reduce the omega-6 in your diet. Of course, supplement with a high quality fish oil too.
5. Boost Testosterone – A 2008 study found that animals fed olive oil and coconut oil had a higher level of testicular antioxidants and testosterone.
6. Antibacterial, Antiviral, Antiprotozoal & Antifungal (again) – About 50% of coconut oil is lauric acid. Our bodies make a monoglyceride from lauric acid called monolaurin. Monolaurin affects the lipid membrane of these invaders, which isn’t good… for them. Interestingly, the only known natural source of lauric acid with higher concentrations than coconut oil is breast milk.
The bottom line is that there is some great evidence of the benefits of coconut oil, with little or no downsides. The studies I’ve cited are small and by no means prove that coconut oil is the be all, end all… and despite coconut oil’s potential, there aren’t billions to be made, so we shouldn’t expect any large-scale studies anytime soon. However, for those of us on a quest to live as healthy as we can with the information and tools we have, coconut oil is a must have for both it’s potential and for what it replaces.