Coconut Oil – why you should make the switch

A revolution is underway.  A revolution against blaming saturated fat for causing heart disease, depression, Alzheimer’s and a range of other conditions and re-introducing it back into our diets. We’re going to start with coconut oil which has recently begun to receive accolades around the world as the next super-food.  Coconut oil is made up of approximately 90% saturated fat, 6% monounsaturated fat and 3% polyunsaturated fat but unlike many saturated fat rich oils, its saturated fat component is mostly medium-chain fatty acids.  These medium-chain fatty acids make coconut oil very stable, with a long shelf-life and great for use in cooking.  Furthermore, medium-chain fatty acids afford coconut oil the enviable qualities of being anti-inflammatory and metabolism boosting.  With most vegetable oils containing high concentrations of long-chain fatty acids, coconut oil is a great natural source of health promoting medium-chain fatty acids.

Coconut Oil for weight Management
The weight control benefits of coconut oil can be directly attributed to its content of medium-chain fatty acids.  The structure of medium-chain fatty acids enables them to be absorbed directly across the gut wall into the portal vein to the liver, unlike long-chain fatty acids which must be processed, coupled with glycerol to form triglycerides and then travel into the blood stream via the lymphatic system.  Once in the liver, medium-chain fatty acids are efficiently converted into energy for immediate use, while long-chain fatty acids tend to be stored in the form of fat.  Furthermore, medium-chain fatty acids have a lower calorie content than long-chain fatty acids.  Studies have also shown that consuming coconut oil boosts metabolism with those participants given coconut oil burning more calories each day.  All these factors ensure that coconut oil provides energy without promoting weight gain. Despite this, medium-chain fatty acids can also help to maintain a healthy weight in people with malabsorption or chronic illness including cystic fibrosis and HIV.  This is due to their easy digestibility which means more fat is absorbed resulting in fewer bowel movements and lower faecal fat content.

Coconut Oil for Heart Health
Despite its high saturated fat content, coconut oil has been shown to improve heart health.  The main reason why saturated fat has been demonised in the past is due to its role in creating an unhealthy blood lipid profile including elevated cholesterol and triglycerides.  Coconut oil on the other hand has been found to improve lipid profiles by lowering total cholesterol, in particular the bad low-density lipoprotein and increasing the heart-healthy high-density lipoprotein.  Furthermore, improved heart health and decreased heart damage has been found in rats fed a diet supplemented with coconut oil compared to those fed other saturated fat rich oils.

Anti-Microbial Properties
Coconut oil has unique anti-microbial properties due to lauric acid, the main fatty acid found in coconut fat.  Lauric acid has long been known for its non-food use as an emulsifier in cosmetics and medicines but more recently its anti-microbial properties have also been recognised.  Coconut oil has been found to be an effective anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent and this is largely attributed to its lauric acid content.  Lauric acid is particularly effective against virus encapsulated in a lipid membrane including influenza and HIV.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties
The medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil also make it a potent anti-oxidant with particularly strong effects within the gastrointestinal tract.  Coconut oil has been shown to improve digestive discomfort due to inflammation of the gut mucosa which is a feature of a range of conditions including irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.  Also, coconut oil is very stable when used in cooking at high temperatures, unlike other vegetable oils which will oxidise at high temperatures creating harmful free radicals.

While much research is still underway regarding the improvements to health provided by coconut oil, preliminary evidence is overwhelmingly positive.  So if you’re looking to improve your health by boosting your immune system and maintaining a healthy weight, try switching to coconut oil, one of nature’s great health foods.