Coconut oil is often touted as a ‘cure-all’ with supposed weight-loss, medicinal and antibacterial benefits. But is it actually good for us, or should we minimise its use?
SO, WHAT IS COCONUT OIL?
All oils are a form of fat, and coconut oil is made up of a mixture of different types. In contradiction to other vegetable oils, a huge portion of the fat in coconut oil is ‘bad’ saturated fat, at a whopping 90%. However, and this is where pro-coco people get excited, part of this saturated fat is a rogue bunch that have been seen to have some health benefits, called Multi Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs). MCFAs are metabolized differently from most other fats. After being transported from the intestinal tract to the liver, a number of them are expended as energy, meaning you could be burning a few calories due to the slight increase in your metabolic rate. Unfortunately, this isn’t as exciting as it seems, with coconut oil shown (as yet) to have a small, but pretty insignificant effect on weight loss. The ‘bad’ saturated fat is in majority, minimising the potential benefits of the MCFAs, and with still more saturated fat than there is in lard and butter – eek!
DOES COCONUT OIL HAVE OTHER BENEFITS?
MCFAs such as capric and loric acid have also been suggested to have antimicrobial properties, but sadly there is a lack of evidence as yet to suggest that we should go out of our way to consume it for these purposes. Unfortunately, as a whole we still don’t have much evidence on ingesting coconut oil, aside from a number of studies done on its effect on raising HDL cholesterol levels. While these findings are intriguing, we don’t know enough to make an executive decision on whether it is truly beneficial against heart disease, with a recent study showing no link towards raised HDL levels and lowered instances of cardiac arrest. What we do know is that saturated fat is linked with the clogging and stiffening of coronary arteries, so for now at least, it’s wise to minimise coconut oil use. Maybe swap for a healthier alternative, such as canola oil, or even better, keep your fats in whole food form rather than as a highly processed oil, with some nuts, or some avocado. It’s also important to be aware that even a moderate amount of any oil can quickly increase your caloric intake, at a hefty 117 calories a tablespoon. So if you do want to use oil when you’re making something, just be cautious, a little goes a long way.
Use sparingly, along with other saturated fats, and highly processed oils.
Heart healthy canola oil, and whole food forms such as nuts and avocado.
The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mid to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24320105
Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058
Coconut oil predicts a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women in the Philippines. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3146349//
Effect of cutting down on the saturated fat we eat on our risk of heart disease. http://www.cochrane.org/CD011737/VASC_effect-of-cutting-down-on-the-saturated-fat-we-eat-on-our-risk-of-heart-disease