Coconut oil is extracted by cold-pressing ripe coconut meat, and according to the "Foods & Nutrition Encyclopedia," it contains more saturated fatty acids than any other naturally occurring edible oil. It is a common cooking ingredient in many parts of the world, particularly in Polynesian cuisine, but coconut oil is also used for many purported medicinal and health benefits. Evidence of some oft-cited benefits is still largely anecdotal, but others have been verified in clinical trials.
Though there is not total consensus within the medical community, many medical and nutritional authorities assert that certain types of coconut oil can promote cardiac health through the management of cholesterol. According to an article in US News and World Report, coconut oil differs from most other naturally occurring oils in that it is mostly composed of medium-chain triglycerides, and others largely consist of long-chain triglycerides. The medium-chain versions may increase metabolism and raise good cholesterol without raising bad cholesterol, though experts quoted in the article go on to add that clinical research has not proven that replacing other dietary oils with coconut oil will reduce the risk of cardiac problems.
A commonly cited bit of anecdotal evidence by coconut oil proponents, according to MSN Health, is that people living in tropical areas where coconut oil consumption is high experience lower incidences of major health problems. Some sources, including David Wolfe's "Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future," argue that only rancid, unsaturated fats and animal-based bad cholesterol, not plant-based saturated fats, contribute to cardiac problems. Wolfe further explains that coconut oil balances cholesterol by stimulating the thyroid to convert cholesterol into heart-healthy steroids. Still, the Food and Drug Administration and American Medical Association recommend that all saturated fat oils, including coconut oil, be used sparingly, according to MSN Health.
Bruce Fife's "Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut" explains that coconut oil is a rich source of antioxidants. Its antioxidant benefits can be reaped by simply working coconut oil into your diet as an ingredient or cooking oil, since the beneficial compounds in coconut oil are very resistant to heat, according to "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods." Increasing your antioxidant intake can have anti-aging benefits; NaturalNews reports that antioxidants seek out and attack free radicals, which can hasten cardiovascular disease, arthritis, weakened immune systems, loss of skin elasticity and other conditions that become more common with age.
In October 2008, Gilda Sapphire Erguiza, MD and three other physicians from the Philippine Children's Medical Center published the study "The Effect of Virgin Coconut Oil Supplementation for Community-Aquired Pneumonia in Children Aged 3 to 60 Months Admitted at the Philippine Children's Medical Center." Throughout the single-blind trial, one group of children with community-acquired pneumonia received Ampicillin intravenously, plus a daily oral dose of virgin coconut oil for up to three days, and another group received only the Ampicillin. The results revealed that the children taking coconut oil reached a normal respiratory rate significantly faster than the control group. The coconut oil group also required shorter hospitalization periods, recovered normal temperatures faster and returned to normal oxygen saturation earlier, though the difference between the two groups was not statistically significant in these categories.
- "Foods & Nutrition Encyclopedia"; Audrey H. Ensminger; 1994
- US News & World Report: Do Coconut Oil and Coconut Water Provide Health Benefits?
- MSN Health: Coconut Oil
- "Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future"; David Wolfe; 2009
- "Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut"; Bruce Fife; 2005
- coconut image by Witold Krasowski from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.