Coconut Oil: Good, Bad, or Undecided?

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DSCI0427Over the years, the media and medical experts have really put the screws to coconut oil while a lot of island people, like my Dad, just laughed. He grew up eating natural, pure coconut oil, the fresh non-processed kind, so he felt that medicine was a little slow.

So here are some of the reasons why coconut oil was labeled “bad”:

It’s loaded with saturated fat – That’s right. It is high in saturated fat, which medical research indicates is a detriment to cardiovascular health.

Increases cholesterol – Because of it’s saturated fat content, the next logical assumption would be that it increases the low density lipoprotein (LDL) part of the total cholesterol panel.

Here’s what modern science is starting to realize about coconut oil that many cultures before them already found out so many years ago:

Boosts GOOD cholesterol

Lauric Acid is one of the components of the coconut including coconut milk. It’s a saturated fat that resides in the medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) group, which is very easy to digest and is a great source of energy. Lauric acid does increase cholesterol but it does so by increasing the high density lipoprotein (HDL) part of the panel.  You want a higher HDL because it means you’re protecting yourself from cardiovascular disease; one of the major benefits of coconut oil

Monolaurin is lauric acid that’s been naturally converted by the human body. It is an antibacterial and has shown signs of being able to combat Staphylococcus Aurea.

Aids Digestion

According to research on coconut oil and malnutrition, patients are given pure coconut oil because the body doesn’t need use pancreatic enzymes to aid in digestion. Coconut oil digests quickly without taxing the body so the nutrition is absorbed quicker. For people with Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), this means that they have a chance to reduce the cramping and diarrhea associated with those diseases by incorporating coconut into their diet.  For people with diabetes, the benefits of coconut oil  means less stress on the pancreas and on the body overall.

Helps with Diabetes

One of the  issues with diabetes is insulin resistance. That happens when the cells don’t respond to insulin so the pancreas keeps pumping out more until it does. A diet consisting of coconut oil protects the body against this and actually reduces the accumulation of body fat. A research study published in Diabetes Journals suggests that diets composed of MCFAs like those found in coconut oil reduce insulin resistance in the muscles and fat accumulation, which may lead to obesity prevention. Between these and the other benefits of pure coconut oil , diabetics have an ally they can rely on to help them deal with the disease.

Other significant benefits of coconut oil include, but are not limited to:

  • Helps the skin stay supple and fight the signs of aging. It also has vitamin E, a known antioxidant which can help the skin heal.
  • According to a study done in the Phillipines, some HIV patients who took coconut oil over a 3-6 month period saw their viral loads decrease.
  • It contains caprylic acid, which is a natural antibacterial and anti-fungal agent

The list goes on and it’s growing.

Processing makes all the difference

One of the reasons why coconut oil has received such a bad reputation is based on the way it’s made. As I mentioned, my father grew up with pure coconut oil. The way it was made was by boiling the coconut milk until all that’s left was the oil. It was then bottled and used. That’s it. However, as with any commercial product, manufacturing companies need to do things faster and longer. As a result, some have used the hydrogenation process that gives the oil a higher smoke point. The problem is that this hydrogenation process creates trans fats, which are dangerous to the cardiovascular system.

Good, Bad or Undecided?

Nutritionally, the more natural and unprocessed form (i.e. organic, cold-pressed) of coconut oil has shown that it is extremely beneficial to body health inside and out. It is a fat, which means it has more calories and shouldn’t be eaten in overabundance. Despite the many health benefits, the medical community is still trying to qualify and quantify the benefits of pure coconut oil. Ayurveda practitioners and herbalists are already convinced of its benefits based on years of use and observation. The only question is the public.

Based on these facts, what do you think about Coconut Oil?