One of the questions I recently received: Is Coconut Oil as good as they say it is? I actually loved this question,, Thank you for asking Dana… because it gave me the opportunity to go back and remember as to why it is part of my own daily diet, and I hope it will become one of yours, as well.
Coconut oil has been used for thousands of years – and those who have used it are healthier than those who have used the poly-unsaturated oils, such as, canola, flaxseed, corn, safflower and sunflower, since the 1950’s. Why did this change occur? People were told that these unsaturated fats were better, but results have proven otherwise.: weight-gain, heart disease and thyroid problems increased..
Before the 1950’s heart attacks were not common in Sri Lanka, where coconut consumption was ultra high. However, coconut consumption dropped , because of the saturated fat scare; and hospital admissions for heart attacks rose drastically from 1972-1992. The 1978 edition of the Demographic Yearbook of the United Nations reported that Sri Lanka had the lowest death rate from ischemic heart disease, while coconut oil was their main dietary fat.
So, how does this happen to those in the tropics that use coconut oil? How can people on their traditional high saturated fat coconut diet keep trim and healthy?
Researchers have known for quite some time that the secret to health and weight loss associated with coconut oil is related to the length of the fatty acid chains contained in coconut oils. Coconut oil contains what are called medium chain fatty acids or medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s for short). These medium chain fatty acids are different from the longer chain fatty acids found in other plant-based oils. Most vegetable oils are composed of longer chain fatty acids or triglycerides (LCT’s). LCT’s are typically stored in the body as fat, while MTC’s are burned for energy. MCT’s burn up quickly in the body.
Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of MCT’s. Not only do MCT’s raise the body’s metabolism leading to weight loss, but they have special health-giving properties as well. The most predominant MCT in coconut oil, for example, is lauric acid. Lipid researcher, Dr. Jon Kabera states “Never before in the history of man is it so important to emphasize the value of Lauric Oils. The medium-chain fats in coconut oils are similar to fats in mother’s milk and have similar nutriceutical effects. These health effects were recognized centuries ago in Ayurvedic medicine. Modern research has now found a common link between these two natural health foods—their fat or lipid content. The medium chain fatty acids and monoglycerides found primarily in coconut oil and mother’s milk have miraculous healing powers.”
Outside of a human mother’s breast milk, coconut oil is nature’s most abundant source of lauric acid and medium chain fatty acids.
Much of the research done on coconut oil and lauric acid, the most predominant fatty acid chain found in coconut oil, has centered around the anti-microbial and anti-viral properties of this unique fatty acid. Today many strains of bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, and antibiotics are generally ineffective in treating virus infections. When lauric acid is consumed in the diet, either in human breast milk or in coconut oil, lauric acid forms a monoglyceride called monolaurin, which has been known to destroy several bacteria and viruses, including listeria monocytogenes and helicobacter pylori, and protozoa such as, giardia lamblia. Some of the viruses that have been destroyed by monolaurin include HIV, and cytomegalovirus. There is also evidence now that the MCT’s in coconut oil kill yeast infections, such as, Candida.
How did Coconut Oil get such a bad reputation? It started in the 1950’s, when public opinion towards saturated fats in general, and then later towards coconut oil in particular, began to turn negative. This history of the edible oil industry in the U.S. has been well documented by Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D., and can be read at
www.coconutoil.com or at the Weston Price Foundation website (www.westonprice.org ). Her articles “The Oiling of America” and “Coconut: In Support of Good Health in the 21st Century” provide in depth analysis of the saturated fat research, and the negative campaigns that have been waged against coconut oil.
What we know today, but was not well known in the 1950’s, is that hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils create trans fatty acids that have been linked to heart disease.
Dr. Mary Enig states: The coconut industry has suffered more than three decades of abusive rhetoric from the consumer activist group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), from the American Soybean Association (ASA), and other members of the edible oil industry, and from those in the medical and scientific community who learned their misinformation from groups like CSPI and ASA. According to one of CSPI’s own press releases, “In 1984, CSPI organized the first national campaign to pressure fast-food restaurants and food companies to stop frying with beef fat and tropical oils, which are high in the cholesterol-raising saturated fats that increase the risk of heart disease. After six years of public pressure – including full-page newspaper ads placed by Nebraska millionaire and cholesterol-crusader Phil Sokolof – the industry finally relented in 1990.”
Congress held hearings in 1988 to discuss the safety of tropical oils. Dr. George Blackburn, a Harvard medical researcher, testified that coconut oil has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol, even in situations where coconut oil is the sole source of fat. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop dismissed the entire attacks on coconut oil as “foolishness,” and continued to say “but to get the word out to commercial interests terrorizing the public about nothing is another matter.” However, with no strong political influence in Washington from the coconut-producing countries, the ASA and CSPI prevailed and soon coconut oil almost vanished from the American diet, today it has been replaced by the so called “healthier” vegetable oils.
What have replaced saturated fats are now liquid vegetable oils, also known as polyunsaturated oils. Unfortunately these oils are not stable and are prone to oxidation. These commercial vegetable oils are a recent addition to our diet since World War II, when manufacturers developed a process to make them shelf stable by using hydrogenation. Hydrogenating, or partially hydrogenating these oils, also makes them more solid (mimicking saturated fats) and useful for baking and deep frying.
Research now shows that the processing of these polyunsaturated oils creates a whole new subclass called trans fatty acids. These trans fatty acids aren’t found in nature, and are very toxic. Studies are now showing that trans fatty acids are linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, among others. What are the poly unsaturated commercially processed in the US containing trans fatty acids? Soy, corn, cottonseed and safflower are the most common. 90% of all margarines in the US today are made from soy oil. and are loaded with trans fatty acids.
One reason why saturated coconut oil has a long history of use in traditional cultures – it does not easily oxidize (turn rancid). Virgin coconut oil will not go rancid at room temperature in the tropics for over 2 years. Conversely the refined oils that many Americans use are very unstable and can turn rancid very rapidly.
In addition, saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of cell membranes. They give the cells necessary firmness and integrity. They play a vital role in the health of our bones. They lower a substance in our blood that indicates proneness to heart disease. They protect the liver from the toxic effects of alcohol and certain drugs. They enhance the immune system. They are needed for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids. Elongated omega-3 fatty acids are better retained in the tissues, when the diet is rich in saturated fats. Short and medium-chain saturated fatty acids have important antimicrobial properties. They protect us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract..
In addition, there is a thyroid-stimulating, anti-aging effect in coconut oil. The cholesterol lowering properties of coconut oil are a direct result of its ability to stimulate thyroid function. In the presence of adequate thyroid hormone, cholesterol (specifically LDL-cholesterol) is converted by enzymatic processes to the vitally necessary anti-aging steroids, pregnenolone, progesterone and DHEA. These substances are required to prevent heart disease, senility, obesity, cancer and other diseases associated with aging and chronic degenerative diseases.
The research for this information came from Ray Peat, PhD. And Mary Enig, PhD and if you click on:
www.coconutoil.com you will find a list of references available..
How can you best utilize this valuable oil? I would suggest using it raw; unheated. Twice a day you can use a teaspoon in a blender drink or add it to your homemade salad dressing. You will see the word Virgin…meaning not heated. I checked out different brands and they are not all processed the same way. If you are interested in a specific brand, ask me to check it out. Pure Planet and Jarrow are two brands that checked out well.
Coconut oil solidifies at temperatures under 76 degrees. At temperatures over 76 degrees, it becomes liquid.
I use coconut oil on my face and skin daily. It nourishes the skin…no chemicals, what-so-ever. I drink light coconut milk in my smoothie every morning and love the taste. Coconuts have been used by cooks for thousands of years with good results. Speaking of cooks – check out coconut cookbooks on
Google Search. Bruce Fife, N.D. has one called Cooking with Coconut Flour and another on The Miracle of Coconut Oil,; so add virgin coconut oil to your dietary program and it could prove to be a miracle food for you, too.