Does science spoil coconut oil?

Health, health and wellness, healthy, nutrition, science, sport

More and more people are going loco for coco; nuts for coconuts. Coconut oil to be specific. It’s touted as a healthy alternative to butter, vegetable oil and margarine, yet it actually tastes pretty bloody good (Australian talk, sorry). The reason it tastes so darn delicious is because 92% of its fat is saturated. Hold up! Hold up! How on earth can something with such a high saturated (bad) fat content ever be healthy?

That’s a fantastic question, thanks for asking. The saturated fat in coconut oil is a unique type. It’s made up predominately of medium chain fatty acids, which means its chemical structure is slightly different to that of other saturated fats and these medium chain triglycerides are proposed to not have the negative health effects of normal saturated fat.  So is coconut oil a good-bad fat, or are we being told a big fat lie?

saturated_fat

The science. The sweet, sweet science:

Many studies have been conducted assessing the effects of coconut oil on animals. But unless you’re a hypertensive mouse or a pregnant pig, these studies aren’t particularly relevant to you. Therefore, we will look exclusively at the data surrounding coconut oil use in humans. Here it is:

Weight loss:

Consuming 30mL of coconut oil daily in addition to a normal diet decreased waist circumference in obese women, when compared to those consuming an equivalent calorie diet and supplementing with soy bean oil (1). Other studies have also found supplementation with a medium chain fat like coconut oil increased weight loss more than supplements like olive oil (5, 6).  Great stuff!

weight-loss-plateau

Health conditions:

The effects of coconut oil supplementation were assessed in breast cancer sufferers receiving chemotherapy. Coconut oil was found to improve quality of life, function and various symptoms (3). You beauty!

Cholesterol:

You were all waiting for this I know. A study found consuming 10g of coconut oil daily increased HDL (good cholesterol), without increasing LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in pre-menopausal women (2).  However, a very old study found that one pacific island that consumed a diet higher in coconut oil than another pacific island reported higher levels of overall cholesterol (4). That is obviously not a good thing! So what does this mean for coconut oil? Read below.

Cholesterol Meter High Showing Unhealthy Fatty Diet

Is it healthful?

Human research on coconut oil is in its infancy, so we can’t yet make firm conclusions. The existing data suggests that supplementation with a couple of teaspoons a day may enhance weight loss, improve symptoms in diseases such as cancer and improve cholesterol levels. But, when it is consumed heavily, like those Pacific Islanders, it may be detrimental to cholesterol levels as it is, after all, still a saturated fat.

Our verdict: Slightly healthful. But with further human studies could be proven to be very healthful. Only take a couple of teaspoons a day to be safe.

I hope this has been healthful.   

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39 thoughts on “Does science spoil coconut oil?

  1. I exclusively use coconut oil these days. I use it as face wash (removes makeup really well), I rub it on my legs and feet as it’s a great moisturizer, I sometimes slather it on my hair and sleep with it overnight, and when I do happen to use it for cooking it adds a nice flavor. But I don’t use it often…I also get other fat from avocados, nuts, and seeds but all of it in moderation. Coconut oil is great with mashed sweet potatoes and vegetable curry dishes. I had done some research on it before but this has been the best article yet. Thanks!

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  2. Coconut oil is good if used externally as moisturizers, and conditioner, internally its better eat raw coconut , drink coconut water as it will give many other benefits

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      1. Coconut oil is saturated oil no doubt and saturated fat in excess is harmful so I feel taking it as fruit will provide many other benefits

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      2. That is true. I am not advocating excess coconut oil consumption, rather the limited scientific evidence to date suggests that in very small doses (a teaspoon or two daily) it may be beneficial. I will agree that this could probably also be achieved by consuming natural coconut.

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  3. beautiful, am i talking to lady from down under?? something you might wanna know is back in WWII when there was shortage of blood in japan, burma and thai region doctors recommended people to hack a nut from tree and simply inject it into your blood stream as its the only natural drink with same isotopic balance as of your blood…
    No wonder im planning something big with coconut water 🙂

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  4. Although I don’t regularly consume coconut oil, I can attest to its use on the skin. My son had a nasty yeast diaper rash. The Rx did nothing to take it away, so I tried coconut oil (which is supposed to have antimicrobial properties) on his butt before bed and it took the rash away. I could see large improvements by the morning. I now regularly use it on his skin when he has dryness or diaper rash.

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  5. Hey! I’m just doing my own bit of research for this product. Not the healthful research of course 😉
    I would LOVE to know how you can stomach to swallow 1-2 or even 3 teaspoons of this product EVERY DAY. I tried a few blobs in my protein shake and it made my stomach feel rough. In my mouth it is literally oil and just doesn’t feel right. I could imagine that if I went ahead, bit the bullet and swallowed a tsp of the stuff, that I may hurl it all over my kitchen counter…

    Other than that, I am enjoying it for other uses but still trying the oil-pulling theory but I enjoy talking too much so have only swilled it for 5 minutes so far haha.
    Have a healthful day!

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  6. It is vague articles like this that confuse people…. not only does the author not state his/her credentials are for providing healthcare information, the “idea” of whether coconut oil is “maybe” slightly healthy or that we should only consume a small amount until we know more based on one Pacific Islander’s results, indicating only that they ate higher amounts, is worthless. More information is needed. Did those Pacific Islander’s consume a higher carbohydrate diet along with high levels of coconut oil? What is the mainstay of their overall diet? I would suggest a much more informative and up-to-date account of healthcare guidance can be found at http://www.mercola.com (sign up for the free daily newsletter). As well, for those of you who are still on Lipitor or any kind of statin, READ “The Great Cholesterol Myth” by Drs. Johnny Bowden & Stephen Sinatra, which will change your life, get you off that med and hopefully help you, a family member or friend to avoid a future heart attack or at the very least muscle weakness and fatigue. I have 30+ years experience in healthcare, but what’s more important to is that I suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) which damaged my pituitary gland (master gland in your brain) 25 years ago. This gland’s hormone production controls or effects just about everything organ and system of the body, so I became a healthcare mess at the age of 36, and for 20 years suffered without a “root-cause” diagnosis. My healthcare providers just treated my “symptoms.” However, with proper diagnosis and hormone treatment, I have still found myself battling many health-related challenges (who wouldn’t after 20 years of “bandaid” healthcare?). One thing that has made a difference is the use of coconut oil over the past two years (one to two tablespoons by mouth per day (just allow to melt in your mouth & swallow), plus cooking all high-heat foods with this oil). This regimen has lowered my c-reactive protein (measurement of inflammation within the body) from 6.9 to 4.6 (less than 3.0 being optimal) and lowered my glucose from a pre-diabetic (insulin-resistant) state in the low 100’s to 87. For someone like me who is chronically ill with numerous challenges, coconut oil is an amazing gift that has made a huge difference. But, please make sure you are buying “unrefined” coconut oil. Anything “refined” is still processed food. My favorite is Mr. Bonner’s All-In-One (Fresh-Pressed Virgin, Whole Kernel Unrefined) purchased at Natural Grocers. But, most importantly, as a healthcare advocate, I encourage you not to believe or follow what I do or what this article says, but to educate yourself and seek out the care & advice of holistic and/or other open-minded physicians who are moving away from old mainstream medicine (i.e., diagnose the symptom and provide a man-made pill to provide comfort or relief – instead of determining the root cause of your healthcare issue and treating that one issue). By treating just your symptoms, you will never be well and will end up on a multitude of man-made medications, which are intended to keep us sick and dependent on drugs (which just equates to MONEY). As far as oils in your diet, we now consume only unrefined coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and grass-fed, free-range butter. All meats are organic, as well as most vegetables. And, milk has been replaced with Almond Milk. Processed foods have been 90% eliminated from our life (I love looking in our pantry now and seeing almost no boxes or packets of the processed food poisons and smile when I think of the money I no contribute to those producers). Only drawback is more frequent trips to the grocery store for fresh foods & cooking them before they spoil! 🙂

    Now, you would think all these drastic changes were the result of my chronic illness and healthcare challenges, but in reality it was due to my husband’s very unexpected heart attack at the age of 58 (a man who is normal weight, very active, practiced yoga 3 times a week, a happy, healthy attitude always, the picture of perfect health, loved by his physicians for being a “compliant” patient…..). So I was on an education mission! And here’s what I found……. after looking closely at his diet and becoming very up-to-date healthcare “educated” via the internet, connecting me with the best books & healthcare websites, it became obvious that his heart attack was two-fold…. diet & medication. He was eating processed foods, had a high intake of sugar (free colas provided all day long by his employer), and was on LIPITOR (reducing his cholesterol to an unhealthy and dangerous level, as well as depleting Coenzyme-Q10, a very important & necessary chemical element). Following all the research & changes I addressed above and the wealth of education I absorbed addressing cholesterol-lower medications (statins), high carb (sugar) diets, insulin-resistance, good and bad oils, the dangers of our processed foods and the unhealthy additives to our meats, learning more about what tests to best evaluate our current health status (read “The Great Cholesterol Myth!”), and taking further charge of our own healthcare destiny by ordering and receiving the results of our lab work via http://www.directlabs.com (such as the new NMR test for accurate evaluation of your lipid status – which is working its way into mainstream medicine but not quite there – so your insurance will not pay for it- YET), I’m glad to announce that my husband and I are now cardiac HEALTHY on labs & all related tests and we refuse to take a statin medication! And, we don’t put up with docs any longer that don’t follow or encourage our beliefs.

    I apologize for making this rebuttal so lengthy, but I hope I have helped you or someone by encouraging you to get EDUCATED and be your own HEALTHCARE ADVOCATE!

    Best wishes & good health, DG (P.S.: I’m having a coconut oil spa day…. my hair and skin are lathered in it!)

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    1. Hi Deb,

      So sorry for the vague article. But the true scientific data is currently vague. Regarding your many points:

      1. My credentials are listed on the about page.
      2. Yes, I agree that the results from the Pacific Islander study are merely correlative and not of great strength. Nevertheless, similar articles have caused medical professionals and nutrition bodies to limit intake of other foods. There is no human study to demonstrate that coconut oil is healthy in any great dose. Therefore, why take anymore than a teaspoon or two when there is no scientific evidence that anymore is healthful?
      3. The Mercola website is a forum for Mercola to simply push his various “healthful” items. Most of the articles are based on opinion, limited poor quality scientific data and are often very outdated – coconut oil article written in 2003. So much so, the FDA has ordered Mercola to stop making illegal claims (see: http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/mercola.html). How can that be a reliable source?
      4. Sure you have 30+ years in healthcare, but you’re stating these points on your opinion and experiences not fact. Quality studies are controlled and free from bias, your opinions and experiences are not.
      5. You mentioned you’ve quit processed food, so it may well be quitting processed foods, not coconut oil that led to you’re improvement in health. In fact, it probably is.
      6. I agree, do your own research and become an educated consumer. All I’m doing here is reviewing the current scientific evidence in humans and publishing it in a way that the lay public can understand.

      Enjoy your spa day.

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  7. Interesting article, though very short and not quite as thorough as one would wish based on the claims of your About page. Coconut oil is a huge health benefit on so many levels, saturated fat aside. If you haven’t read the book yet, I would highly recommend it: “Alzeihmer’s Disease: What If There Were a Cure?” written by Dr. Mary Newport, whose husband saw amazing improvements after she added coconut oil to his diet. Her website has feedback from dozens and dozens who’ve seen great improvements in either themselves or loved ones in their care when using virgin coconut oil in their diets. Not only for Alzeihmer’s, but head injuries, or any other disease that begins in the brain. My mother has Parkinson’s, and she’s added coconut oil to her daily diet – her shaking has been reduced to only a slight head wobble at the moment!
    It needs to be pointed out that the only coconut oil that will benefit one’s health is the pure virgin oil – it smells like coconut! Other more processed coconut oils have little to no health benefits.

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    1. Hi Trinity,

      Thanks for the comment. The focus of this page is to provide conclusions based on scientific data to date in humans. I have included, to my knowledge, all such papers. To date there is no study directly analysing the effects of coconut oil on Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease in humans. Those papers that are in existence suggest coconut oil may be very beneficial, but they are based on animal studies, or are theoretical in nature – holding minimal strength from a scientific perspective.

      Regarding Dr Newport’s page, her claims are very impressive and convincing, but are ultimately based on animal studies, her own personal experiences and testimonials, which again hold little scientific merit. While I don’t doubt coconut oil may be beneficial in such conditions, there is simply not enough good quality scientific data for me to provide a conclusion on coconut oil and Alzheimer’s and dementia on my page.

      Yes, I should have alluded to the fact that coconut oil is probably healthier in it’s virgin form.

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      1. Thank you, that’s interesting. I find it odd (though I trust your judgement on that issue) that there are very few scientific studies (in the US) on the effects of coconut oil in humans, when practical results have been so impressive. Dr. Newport wrote of her history of resistance from the midical community toward this new approach, particularly from within the USA; she came to the UK and had open doors, and there are studies on its effects there. The main US resistance was due to the fact that the FDA sits firmly in the pockets of drug companies… My own mother, a medical PA, faced harsh resistance from doctors when she would recommend dietary changes of any kind to a patient, when their diet was clearly the main contributing factor to their ailments (she was even told that such suggestions were in direct competition with their largest financial income of prescribing medicines!).
        Here’s a link to an article on the topic from a UK news site, for those interested: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2258665/Alzeimers-Can-coconut-oil-ease-Families-whove-given-loved-ones-swear-it.html

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      2. That’s a pleasure. I can’t find any human studies (UK or other) that have directly assessed the effects of coconut oil consumption on symptoms in Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s in humans. Even on Dr Newport’s references page there aren’t any (http://www.coconutketones.com/scireferences.html).

        Yeah, the drug companies are terribly unethical and they could be the reason why human studies are lacking. The other explanation may be that researchers want enough evidence from animal based models so they can get ethical approval to conduct research on humans and also warrant the financial outlay of such studies.

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  8. Great review. My research has shown this to be a very good oil, HOWEVER, should be used in SMALL quantities. People hear about a good product, abuse it, and wonder why their blood chemistries are unhealthy. It is still fat; it is still high in calories. I recommend if used daily to reduce the intake to 5 grams. If 3-4X/week, one can increase up to 10 grams. Finally, it is truly delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice post on coconut oil. My use and enjoyment of it is less reserved than yours. I am 75 years old and have been starting every morning with a tablespoon of peanut butter and coconut oil. My HDL is up and LDL down. Okay, that’s a sample of one. I also rubbed it regularly on scars from my skin cancer surgery and they have virtually disappeared, so it works well on the outside, too.

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    1. Glad to hear that, Tony. The scientific data on coconut oil is very much in its infancy, so I wouldn’t be surprised if studies in the near future reflect your experience. All the best.

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