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Coconut Oil – Healthy And Delicious

Coconut oil, along with many other coconut products, has been a staple of many peoples for thousands of years. And although coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it has a wealth of extremely beneficial properties for human health. Coconut oil is very easy to digest. It regulates blood fat levels, has an antimicrobial effect (both internally and externally), and almost never leads to obesity. But how is it that some experts still regularly, but completely unjustifiably, advise against coconut oil?

Coconut Oil – One of the most natural oils

Coconut oil is one of the most natural oils available to us humans. The ripe coconut consists of about 35 percent coconut oil and, once opened, can be eaten very easily in large quantities.

Compare that to rapeseed. He’s tiny and rock-hard. It is almost impossible to eat it, let alone get hold of its oil. Without monoculture and mechanical processing, rapeseed oil would not exist. Also, safflower oil or soybean oil are not exactly oils that we have known since primeval times.

Coconuts, however, are a staple food for the people of the South Seas – a staple food that has kept them fit and healthy for thousands of years without ever having to worry about diabetes, cholesterol levels, heart attacks, or strokes.

But if you now know the fatty acid composition of coconut oil, you may be surprised. Coconut oil consists of a very high degree (90 percent on average) of saturated fatty acids. And saturated fatty acids are now considered bad, leading to increased cholesterol levels and sooner or later to heart attacks and strokes, they say.

Fatty acids in coconut oil

The fatty acid composition of coconut oil:

Medium Chain Saturated Fatty Acids:

  • Lauric acid 44–52% – the most studied medium-chain fatty acid
  • Capric acid 6-10%
  • caprylic acid 5-9%

Long Chain Saturated Fatty Acids:

  • Myristic acid 13–19%
  • Palmitic acid 8-11%
  • Stearic acid 1-3%

Monounsaturated fatty acids:

  • oleic acid 5-8%
  • Palmitoleic acid less than 1%

Polyunsaturated fatty acids:

  • Linoleic Acid (Omega-6 Fatty Acid) 0–2.5%
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) less than 1%

Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids

Coconut oil is the only natural cooking oil with a high content of medium-chain fatty acids. Medium-chain fatty acids are saturated fatty acids with a specific chain length. For example, while a long-chain fatty acid such as stearic acid consists of a chain with 18 carbon atoms (C stands for carbon), caprylic acid has only 8 carbon atoms, capric acid has 10 and lauric acid has 12 carbon atoms.

Medium-chain fatty acids consist of chains with 8 to 12 carbon atoms and long-chain fatty acids of chains with 14 to 24 carbon atoms.

It is the medium-chain fatty acids that give coconut oil most of its special properties.

Coconut Oil – Easily digestible and lower in calories

First of all, medium-chain fatty acids are very easy to digest. Without the cooperation of bile acids, they can be digested. They are water-soluble and therefore reach the liver directly via the bloodstream.

There now – and this is the next advantage – the body likes to use them to generate energy and is less likely to store them in fat deposits.

In addition, medium-chain fatty acids provide one fewer calorie per gram than other fatty acids.

These two properties of coconut oil fatty acids mean that coconut oil has a reputation for being less conducive to weight gain than other fats, in fact actually helping to lose weight.

This aspect was confirmed by a Japanese-controlled double-blind study that was published in 2001 in The Journal of Nutrition.

78 overweight but healthy participants (men and women with BMI over 23) were divided into two groups. Both ate the same thing throughout the 12-week study period, except that one group (M) received 60 grams of medium-chain fatty acid fat daily and the other group (L) received 60 grams of long-chain fatty acid fat.

Both groups lost weight. But Group M lost significantly more weight than Group L. Not only that.

As is well known, diets often reduce muscle mass in particular, while the body fat percentage can only be reduced hesitantly. Group M, however, experienced significantly greater body fat loss as well as greater subcutaneous tissue fat loss than Group L.

The researchers concluded at the time that medium-chain fatty acids were better at reducing body weight and body fat percentage than a diet containing long-chain fatty acids.

Another very special and unique effect of coconut oil is that against viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

Coconut oil is effective against viruses, bacteria, and fungi

Coconut oil’s medium-chain fatty acids are antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal—when used both internally and externally.

Coconut oil is therefore also the skin oil of choice for fungal diseases. Likewise, coconut oil can be used for vaginal thrush or bacterial diseases of the vaginal mucosa for intimate hygiene or as a lubricant and thus helps to combat unpleasantly itchy microbes and fungi on the spot.

But how does coconut oil work against bacteria & Co?

Coconut oil: lauric acid against herpes and other viruses

The medium-chain lauric acid alone accounts for about 50 percent of the fatty acids found in coconut oil. In the human or animal body, lauric acid is first converted into monolaurin.

There are studies that show that free lauric acid also has antimicrobial properties. However, it is primarily the monolaurin — a so-called monoglyceride — that ultimately acts against viruses and bacteria.

Monolaurin repels especially enveloped viruses (e.g. HI, herpes, cytomegalovirus, and influenza viruses) in human and animal organisms. Enveloped viruses are surrounded by a lipid envelope.

The reason why monolaurin is so dangerous for viruses is that it can dissolve this very envelope, leading to the inactivation of the virus.

About six to 10 percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil are made up of capric acid — also a medium-chain fatty acid with similar health benefits to lauric acid.

Coconut oil: capric acid against chlamydia & Co.

Capric acid is also particularly effective when it is converted into its monoglyceride, monocaprin, in the human or animal organism. Monocaprine is currently being tested for both its antiviral effect against herpes simplex viruses and its antibacterial effects against chlamydia and other sexually transmitted bacteria.

However, there are already older studies on this topic, such as those by Thormar et al. in which the inactivating effect of monocaprin on the viruses mentioned, including HIV, was demonstrated – at least in vitro.

Overall, lauric acid or monolaurin has a higher antiviral activity than the other medium-chain fatty acids or their monoglycerides.

Viruses that can be inactivated by medium-chain fatty acids include

  • HI virus
  • the measles virus,
  • the herpes simplex 1 virus (HSV-1),
  • the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV),
  • the visna virus and that
  • cytomegalovirus.

The fatty acids in coconut oil are not only effective against viruses and bacteria but – as already mentioned – also against fungi.

Coconut oil against fungal infections

The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil also reduce the activity of fungi, such as B. from Candida albicans.

Several studies have shown, on the one hand, an antifungal effect of capric acid on Candida colonization in the mouth area of denture wearers and, on the other hand, in-vitro destruction of three different Candida strains by both capric acid and lauric acid.

Coconut oil can therefore be used excellently for fungal infections of all kinds.

Internally for intestinal fungal infections and externally for fungal infections of the skin or mucous membranes.

With all this antimicrobial activity of coconut oil, one sooner or later wonders whether coconut oil or its fatty acids could possibly also have a destructive effect on desired bacteria and thus on one’s own intestinal flora.

Coconut oil: medium-chain fatty acids harmless to intestinal bacteria

Medium-chain fatty acids or their monoglycerides. B. the monolaurin appears to have no harmful effect on beneficial gut bacteria, only on potentially pathogenic microorganisms.

Researchers working with Isaacs showed, for example, that the widespread microbes that often colonize the intestines, such as B. Escherichia coli no inactivation by monolaurin.

For pathogenic microbes such as B. Haemophilus influenza, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and the gram-positive group B streptococcus, however, a very strong inactivation.

Fat that can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi is great, of course. But what about heart health, cholesterol levels, and the condition of the blood vessels if you eat a lot of coconut oil all the enthusiasm?

After all, it wouldn’t be very practical if you finally died of a heart attack without a fungus or virus.

Coconut oil, however, optimally has a very beneficial effect on the heart, blood vessels, and also on cholesterol levels.

Coconut Oil and Heart Disease

More than four decades of research into the interactions between coconut oil as a dietary ingredient and heart disease have largely come to the same conclusion:

Coconut oil is extremely helpful in minimizing risk factors for heart disease.

Blackburn et al. in their review reviewed the published literature on the “Effects of coconut oil on serum cholesterol and atherogenesis” and concluded that “Coconut oil, when supplemented with other fats or with sufficient linoleic acid, is beneficial in terms of atherogenesis represents neutral fat”. (Atherogenesis = emergence/development of arteriosclerosis)

After reviewing the same literature in the late 1990s, Kurup & Rajmoran conducted a study on 64 volunteers and found “no statistically significant change in all cholesterol levels (total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, etc.) compared to baseline”. They announced the results in 1995 in India at the Symposium on Coconut and Coconut Oil in Human Nutrition.

Kaunitz & Dayrit examined and wrote even earlier, namely in 1992, the epidemiological test data from groups that had consumed coconuts all their lives

“The available population studies show that coconut oil in the diet does not lead to high serum cholesterol levels or high mortality or morbidity from coronary heart disease.”
They further noted that Mendis et al. (1989) demonstrated undesirable lipid changes in young male adults from Sri Lanka after switching their diet from regular coconut oil to corn oil.

Although serum cholesterol fell 18.7 percent and LDL cholesterol fell 23.8 percent because of the corn oil, HDL (good) cholesterol also fell 41.4 percent, well below the lowest acceptable HDL level in the world 35 mg/dL, so the LDL/HDL ratio increased by 30 percent — which is an extremely bad sign.

Previously, Prior et al. have similarly shown that among islanders who consume large amounts of coconut oil “no evidence was observed that the high intake of saturated fats has a deleterious effect on these groups”.

However, when these groups migrated to New Zealand, where their coconut oil consumption decreased, their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels increased and their HDL cholesterol levels decreased.

Mendis & Kumarasunderam compared the effects of coconut and soybean oil in young men with normal blood lipid levels, and again the consumption of coconut oil led to an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), whereas soybean oil lowered this desirable lipoprotein.

Coconut oil for arteriosclerosis?

Further research has shown that herpes and cytomegaloviruses could play a role in the formation of atherosclerotic deposits in the blood vessels and also in the re-narrowing of the arteries after angioplasty (surgical widening of a blood vessel, e.g. by inserting a stent) (Article in the New York Times of 1984).

It is interesting that the antimicrobial monolaurin – as we have seen above – can inhibit precisely these herpes and cytomegaloviruses, but monolaurin is only formed in the body if lauric acid is part of the diet. And lauric acid is found in coconut oil.

A review by Lawrence (2013) summarizes the current state of knowledge as follows:

“Although previous studies have indicated that a diet high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat intake increases cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, the evidence has always been weak.”

Over the years, it has been shown that saturated fats are not associated with heart disease or other health problems, but on the contrary – particularly saturated fats found in coconut oil – can improve health.”

The frequent recommendation to avoid coconut oil (because of the allegedly dangerous saturated fatty acids) could also be seen as a contribution to the increase in coronary heart disease – and perhaps also to the increase in dementia in the population.

Coconut oil for dementia

The brain affected by Alzheimer’s can only use insufficient glucose as an energy source. However, so-called ketones can be produced from coconut oil.

The Alzheimer’s brain can now also use this to generate energy, the symptoms then decrease and the disease progresses more slowly or even improves.

Coconut oil for cancer

Coconut oil can also be integrated into the diet in the case of cancer. It provides the often emaciated body with easily digestible calories, relieves the immune system through its antimicrobial effects, and also has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Yes, there’s even a specific program (The Ketogenic Cleanse) that’s done over three to 10 days to help starve cancer cells while fueling healthy body cells with the ketones derived from coconut oil.

Is coconut oil involved in the formation of fatty tumors?

So-called atheromas are benign fatty growths that usually form on the hairy area of the head (e.g. on the neck or behind the ear) or on the stomach. These are benign cysts that fill with fat.

Now you might think that the cysts are surely filled with the “bad” saturated fat that the body is trying to dump somewhere. But far from it.

The chemical analysis of atheromas has shown that they consist of about 40 percent polyunsaturated and more than 30 percent monounsaturated fatty acids, i.e. a total of 70 percent unsaturated fatty acids, but only just under 25 percent saturated fatty acids.

Furthermore, none of the saturated fatty acids were fatty acids from coconut oil, i.e. neither lauric nor myristic acid.

Coconut oil: victim of the cooking oil industry

It is interesting that most of the listed positive properties and effects of coconut oil have been known for many decades – as the data of the listed studies show – so they were just ignored in order to give us instead elaborately produced industrial oils from now partially genetically modified oils Selling seeds such as rapeseed oil or soybean oil as particularly healthy.

Unfortunately, the advantages of coconut oil were not only ignored, they were even downright bad, in order to draw as many people as possible to the side of the polyunsaturated vegetable oils, which, to make matters worse, were also offered for sale in a highly industrialized form.

For more than three decades, coconut oil and its producers have suffered from defamation originating in the United States, such as from publications by the consumer protection organization Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the American Soybean Association (ASA) and other representatives of the edible oil industry.

At the same time, there were publications from the scientific and medical community, which in turn had received their misinformation from institutions such as the CSPI and the ASA.

But how did it all begin?

Coconut Oil: Victims of Intrigue and Disinformation

In the late 1950s, a researcher in Minnesota claimed that hydrogenated vegetable fats were the cause of the rise in heart disease.

The cooking oil industry feared lost sales and claimed that the problem was not hydrogenation but the saturated fatty acids present in the hydrogenated fats.

At the same time, a Philadelphia researcher reported that eating polyunsaturated fats lowered cholesterol levels.

The response of the cooking oil industry to this scientific publication and the general acknowledgment of it was to increasingly focus on replacing the “saturated fats” found in food with “polyunsaturated fats”.

In the industrial processing of unsaturated fats, however, there is an enormous risk that, due to the instability of these fats, harmful degradation products and, of course, especially the dangerous trans fats, can develop. However, nobody was interested in that at the time.

Then, in August 1986, the aforementioned consumer protection organization CSPI issued a “press release” calling “palm, coconut, and palm kernel oil” “high in artery-clogging saturated fats.”

The CSPI also called for the mandatory labeling of supplements “saturated fat” if coconut oil or palm oil was contained in a product.

In 1988, the CSPI published a booklet entitled Saturated Fat Attack. This brochure contained lists of products containing ‘unwanted tropical oils’ to enable the consumer to avoid those products.

The brochure had a number of serious errors: for example, it gave an incorrect description of the biochemistry of fats and oils and misrepresented the fat and oil composition of many products.

All of that was irrelevant. The main thing was that consumers avoided tropical fats such as coconut oil in the future and only bought local oils and fats or products made from them.

Coconut oil is the focus of the soybean oil industry

At the same time, the American Soybean Association ASA also launched a campaign against coconut oil and other tropical oils, e.g. B. by sending anti-coconut oil letters to soybean farmers or by placing ads with “how to combat (tropical) fats”.

Another ASA project was to hire a “nutritionist” to monitor supermarkets in Washington, checking foods for coconut oil and other tropical oils.

In early 1987, the ASA asked the FDA to introduce a “contains tropical fats” labeling requirement, following the same trumpet as the CSPI.

In mid-1987 the ASA campaign against coconut oil continued. On June 3, 1987, the New York Times published an editorial entitled “The Truth About Vegetable Oil”, which described coconut oil and other tropical oils as “the cheaper, artery-clogging oils from Malaysia and Indonesia” and claims were made that tropical oils did not meet American dietary guidelines, although this was by no means clear. The term “arterial obstruction” came directly from the CSPI.

The ASA magazine Media Alert also announced that the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Research Council “advised consumers to avoid palm, palm kernel, and coconut oil”.

Attack on coconut oil distracted from the real culprit

And so it went on and on, until today many people, even doctors, and nutritionists, advise against coconut oil because of the saturated fatty acids it contains, but in reality, only the anti-coconut oil campaigns of the soybean oil industry and other interest groups were taken in by the trap.

Because what was the result of the anti-coconut oil actions? People now focused on avoiding coconut oil and other tropical fats. They bought and ate the local, but mostly industrially processed vegetable oils such as soybean, sunflower, and rapeseed oil and also made sure when buying finished products that they did not contain any coconut oil.

However, no one paid attention to the real culprits, namely the trans fats in hydrogenated oils and fats. However, trans fats only come from unsaturated fatty acids, never from saturated fatty acids.

So enjoy the delicious coconut oil – of course in cold-pressed organic quality – and avoid processed fats (in finished products) from unsaturated iron acids.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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