Coconut oil has recently been getting attention, and is being hailed as a superior oil despite some controversy to the contrary centering around the fact that it is a highly saturated fat. We all have been taught that all saturated fats are harmful, but recent research may be supporting the opposite. To best uncover the truth about coconut oil, it is wise to study the health of groups of people who use it extensively and to further research its composition.
What countries of the world do use coconut oil extensively, and do these inhabitants in general seem prone to certain ailments or are they healthy? Coconuts grow abundantly in tropical countries around the globe. Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Philippines use coconuts in abundance as they are in ample supply in hot tropical climates. In the South Pacific, the population there primarily uses coconut oil for cooking and food preparation, even more so than the Asian countries. In fact statistically they consume coconuts and coconut oil more than any other people on the face of the earth! So the South Pacific island inhabitants ought to be the perfect test group to determine the effects that coconuts and coconut oil have on the human body--Right? Of course the Asian tropical countries make another excellent test group.
The conclusions are undeniable! These inhabitants of tropical lands are generally very healthy people with obesity and heart disease being rare amongst them, and longevity common. Also the results of their external use of coconut oil on their hair, scalp, and skin are striking. Glowing, youthful-looking, moisturized skin, and sleek, shiny, strong hair that is dandruff free and resists lice and lice eggs that anyone would desire seems to be the norm there. So how does this physical evidence stand up against the statement that all saturated fats are unhealthy...and that coconut oil must then be detrimental to our health. Somehow that does not seem to ring true.
Did you know that in the United States we used coconut oil much more frequently than now ? What happened to change this fact occurred in the 1970's. Manufacturers of oil products such as corn and soy began propagating a myth, stating that coconut oil is bad for you since it is a highly saturated fat. This gave opportunity to promote corn and soy oil products as much healthier choices. Even the medical field embraced it due to the saturated fat issue. Well, this logic worked for about 30 years! Then in 2000, it began to be questioned. But the question still remained--how could this highly saturated fat promote such obvious health in people groups such as the South Pacific Islands? This mystery began to unfold as more recent scientific research uncovered more details regarding the coconut's components.
So just what are coconuts composed of? Coconut oil is truly 90% saturated fat, but that's not all we should know about its makeup. All fatty acids that our body uses, are not all the same. If we were to break down the chemical makeup of each, we would find that oils are made of either long chain fatty acids, medium chain or short chain ones. So what's the difference?
The long chain fatty acids are the most common, found in animal protein meats, and dairy products. In otherwords steak and cheese are examples of long chain fatty acids. Scientists have now discovered that all these different chain types of fatty acids metabolize very differently. Medium chain fatty acids, such as those found in coconut oil go directly to the liver from the intestinal tract where they convert to energy. Long chain fatty acids are not capable of doing this. The conversion to energy from the medium chain fatty acids results in the formation of ketones that have very therapeutic effects.
Ketones and energy help burn more fat to deter obesity. Ketones also are known to help reduce seizures and therefore are used for patients with drug resistant epilepsy. Ketones help provide an alternative energy source for malfunctioning brain cells, reducing symptoms of memory loss. A 2006 study having patients consume medium chain triglycerides showed patients with beginning Alzheimer's disease to recover immediate memory and brain function. Studies are being done too on autistic victims to test out if ketones, readily resulting from coconut oil, could ease these symptoms.
Medicinal acids are also present in coconuts and play an important role. The medicinal acids found in coconuts are: lauric acid, capric acid (also found in breast milk), and caprylic acid. Lauric acid efficiently fights viruses and bacteria of infuenza, herpes, helicobacter pylori, harmful protozoa and even HIV! The fact that lauric acid is abundant in coconut oil is one of the main reasons it is so healthy. All three of these acids have antifungal, antioxidant, antiviral and antimicrobial qualities, making the immune system benefits of coconut oil quite strong. Coconuts are also composed of vitamins E and K, promoting proper blood clotting, plus iron, present in all red blood cells. Polyphenols are also components which gives the coconut its flavor and fragrance.
External or topical uses of coconut oil have many benefits. As already mentioned, it makes hair strong, smooth, shiny and it conditions and repairs damaged hair. Moisturizing the scalp as well, it contributes to the lack of dandruff and prevention of lice infestation as the lice feed on dry skin and are not attracted to the coconut smell. While not a tonic to kill these parasites, it acts as a great preventative measure!
Benefits to the skin are numerous. Coconut oil moisturizes and has a healing effect on conditions such as psoriasis, ezcema, dermatitis, skin infections and even wounds. It is commonly used in massages to soothe, relax, and reduce stress. Coconut oil is also a natural sunscreen, used in many such products. Probably most important of all is its ability to retain a youthful glow to complexion and skin, diminishing aging wrinkles and sagging skin. Another not so well known use is as a mouthwash, done as a method of oil pulling which draws the harmful bacteria out. This improves mouth health, bad breath and helps gums for dental improvement.
Advantages to taking coconut oil internally are vast. This can be done through cooking food in it, substituting coconut oil for shortenings and vegetable oils in recipes, or supplementing with coconut capsules. Here is a list of ways that coconut oil taken internally has been noted to benefit concerns of health:
1. Weight loss and Energy-As previous mentioned, it positively effects weight loss by increasing energy in the liver to help burn fat, and in particular, BELLY FAT! The way that coconut oil is metabolized, producing ketones, has an effect on reducing appetite cravings, therefore decreasing calorie intake.
2. Improved Cholesterol Levels- Though loaded with saturated fat, coconut oil does not harm blood lipids for it raises the beneficial HDL cholesterol and changes the harmful LDL cholesterol to a benign type. Studies have shown it to beat soybean oil in increasing HDLs.
3. Improved Brain Function-As mentioned already, the coconut can be hailed as a super brain food for it helps replenish brain cells for better memory, and decreased seizure activity. When the brain is functioning efficiently, all body systems are maintained.
4. Deters Stroke and Heart Diease-Not only because of the cholesterol lowering benefits, but also because it reduces blood pressure too, coconut oil (due to the wonders of lauric acid) is able to reduce heart and stroke risks.
5. Strengthens the Immune System-Since coconut oil contains the medicinal acids, lauric acid, capric and caprylic acids that contains highly effective antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, it is power packed to fight diseases. It is known to help with especially kidney and liver illnesses and can help dissolve kidney or gall stones.
6. Relief from Candida and Inflammations-Some of the common sufferings with candida are infection of genitals, the urinary tract or bladder, stomach and intestines, or ear, nose and throat, plus dry skin peeling and patching of scalp or body skin. Coconut oil helps relieve these discomforts.
7. Digestive Advantages-The help of conquering candida and inflammation directly effects digestion, aiding problems such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and also in detoxing the body with the aid of the microbial qualities that can rid the body of toxins and even intestinal parasites. Coconut oil promotes absorption of vitamins and minerals which strengthens body cells and bones for a stronger skeleton and body.
So coconut oil is a super food or a super oil to be precise. With all these and other benefits to our health, how can we ignore the fact that coconut oil has indeed proven to be a superior and essential oil surpassing most other oils. Another benefit is that coconut oil does not easily go rancid.
If you expect to get the most health benefits from this amazing oil, you need to know what type of coconut oil is the best quality. Organic is at the top for quality as it does not contain harmful pesticides or chemicals. Refined is best for internal usage and unrefined for topical uses. Virgin coconut oil refers to its freshness, and cleanliness making it important when coconut oil is used medicinally, or taken internally for health reasons. Also cold-pressed means it has not been heated which would destroy many of the nutrients. Therefore is can be concluded that the most superior and purest coconut oil is organic, virgin (or extra virgin), cold pressed and refined coconut oil. Invest in some--it's an investment in your health, not to mention your good looks!