The Science Behind Coconut Oil

In the 1930s, Dr. Weston Price discovered that the South Pacific Islanders incorporated high quantities of coconut in their diet but remained healthy and fit, and there was a low incidence of heart disease.  In 1981, researchers learned that Polynesian communities whose primary source of food was coconut remained in excellent cardiovascular health.   Coconut oil is naturally high in medium chain triglycerides and lauric acid.  While coconut oil is one of the few known natural sources of lauric acid, it’s also found in mother’s milk, increasing immune strength of infants.  More recently, research shows that coconut oil can support cardiovascular health, immune health, skin health, hair health, weight management and performance enhancement.

 Cardiovascular Health

  • Recent research has indicated that not all saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease.  Studies show that virgin coconut oil can improve cholesterol levels by decreasing low-density cholesterol and increasing high-density cholesterol in serum and tissues.

Reference

  • Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 May;77(5):1146-55. Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials. Mensink RP, Zock PL, Kester AD, Katan MB. Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands.

Immune Health

  • Research shows that lauric acid can increase our body’s production of monolaurin, enhancing anti-bacterial protection.
  • Studies also suggest that virgin coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and analgesic and properties.

References

  • Pharm Biol. 2010 Feb;48(2):151-7. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil. Intahphuak S, Khonsung P, Panthong A. McCormick Faculty of Nursing, Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Skin Health

  • Studies show that coconut oil can improve atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory itchy skin condition, by acting as an effective moisturizer.
  • Virgin coconut oil can also be used as a moisturizer to provide relief for mild to moderate xerosis.
  • Virgin coconut oil when topically applied to wounds, promotes speedy healing.

References

  • Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2010;23(6):290-7. Epub 2010 Jun 3. Effect of topical application of virgin coconut oil on skin components and antioxidant status during dermal wound healing in young rats. Nevin KG, Rajamohan T. Department of Biochemistry, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, India.
  • Dermatitis. 2008 Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15. Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Verallo-Rowell VM, Dillague KM, Syah-Tjundawan BS. Skin and Cancer Foundation, Pasig, Philippines.
  • Dermatitis. 2004 Sept;15(3):109-16. A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM. Department of Dermatology, Makati Medical Center, Makati City, Philippines.

 Hair Health

  • Coconut oil treats damaged hair by penetrating into hair fibers and acting as a moisturizer.   When coconut oil is used as a pre-wash and post-wash grooming product, it can reduce protein loss for both damaged and healthy hair.  The lauric acid present in coconut oil has an affinity for hair proteins and because of its low molecular weight it can penetrate the hair fibers and prevent hair damage.

Reference

  • J Cosmet Sci. 2003 Mar-Apr;54(2):175-92. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Rele AS, Mohile RB. Research and Development Department, Nature Care Division, Marico Industries Ltd., Mumbai, India.

 Weight Management

  • A study conducted on women revealed that coconut oil promotes reduction in abdominal obesity.
  • Consuming medium chain triglycerides can increases diet-induced thermogenesis, which can contribute to preventing weight gain or regain, and in some cases may induce weight loss.
  • When compared to most vegetable oils that contain long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil are used for energy production and are not stored as fat.  Partial replacement of LCTs with MCTs can reduce accumulation of fat.

References

  • Lipids – 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601. Epub 2009 May 13, Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Assunção ML, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF, Cabral CR Jr, Florêncio TM. Faculdade de Nutrição, Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Maceió, AL 57072-970, Brazil.
  • Am J Clin Nutr. – 2005 Jan;81(1):7-15. Dietary fats, teas, dairy, and nuts: potential functional foods for weight control? St-Onge MP. Institute of Human Nutrition, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, Obesity Research Center, St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY, USA.

Performance Enhancement

  • Studies show that MCTs are easily digested and rapidly absorbed into the blood stream from the GI tract upon consumption, and are efficiently utilized by the body for energy production, improving performance of athletes.

References

  • Nutr Hosp. 2012 Jan-Feb;27(1):103-8. doi: 10.1590/S0212-16112012000100011.  Influence of the dietary intake of medium chain triglycerides on body composition, energy expenditure and satiety: a systematic review.  Rego Costa AC, Rosado EL, Soares-Mota M.  Instituto de Nutrição Josué de Castro, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
  • Eur J Nutr. 2013 Sep;52(6):1579-85. doi: 10.1007/s00394-012-0463-9. Epub 2012 Nov 20. Combined medium-chain triglyceride and chilli feeding increases diet-induced thermogenesis in normal-weight humans.  Clegg ME, Golsorkhi M, Henry CJ.  Functional Food Centre, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane, Oxford, OX3 0BP, UK.