by Dr. Amy Wiesner
Coconut oil has recently gained a lot of attention. It is said to help with cholesterol levels, obesity and metabolism, for example. It is being touted as the best oil on earth, either incorporated into your cooking or taken as a dietary supplement. So why is something that’s been used in Asia for thousands of years only becoming popular in the US now?
Coconut oil got its bad reputation because some studies were done on partially hydrogenated coconut oil causing high cholesterol, which is not the same thing as the virgin coconut oil that’s being celebrated, and discussed, today. Though virgin coconut oil has the saturated fats lauric, caprylic and capric acids, saturated fats are needed in the body for proper cell membrane function.
Lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid, is the main fatty acid in coconut oil. It composes about 50% of coconut oil. Lauric acid changes to monolaurin in the body and monolaurin can only be found in coconut oil and breast milk. Monolaurin has been found to be antibacterial, antiviral and antiprotozoal. Newborn babies get their immune system protection from the monolaurin in breast milk. Medium chain fatty acids have been shown to not only disrupt viral communication in the body, but to destroy the virus as well. This has been shown to be true when coconut oil is used both topically and orally.
Medium chain fatty acids have also been shown to reduce serum triglyceride levels as well as body fat. Not only that, but coconut oil itself has been shown to protect the liver and not contribute to the formation of fat cells. There have also been studies that show coconut oil to decrease appetite and increase metabolism.
Coconut oil is also an excellent vegan substitute for butter as it stays solid at room temperature. In addition, it is resistant to oxidation at high temperatures and after storing for long periods of time.
Though more research needs to be done to verify some of these claims to modern scientific satisfaction, long term historical use as well as modern applications have shown that virgin coconut oil has immense applications and potential.
Image courtesy of DrCate.com.