Coconut oil is a truly amazing food that has a plethora of wide-ranging uses and benefits.  So much so, it is essential to have in your house and add to our diet, if you are truly focused on being as healthy as possible (My brand of choice is Nutiva because of its taste and high quality) . In fact, coconut oil has so many uses that this one article will most likely not give it the justice it deserves but give it the old college try.

Weight loss:

Obesity is at near epidemic levels in the United States. The Center of Disease Control’s stats show just over 1 in 3 adults and nearly 1 in 5 children are obese.

Coconut oil is full saturated fats (around 85% of its make up), mainly consisting of Medium Chain Fatty Acid (MCFA) or Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT).  These fatty acids are quickly digested in the stomach then sent directly to the liver to be turned into energy. This makes them unique among the other dietary oils. Other commonly used oils are filled with Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFA), which means they are harder to digest and breakdown and have a much longer process to turn them in to energy. This elongated process makes LCFA’s more likely to be turned into fat and not into energy.  Since coconut oil is made of MCFA’s, it digests quickly and is immediately used as energy; being turned into fat is something that almost can’t happen to MCFA’s.

Human studies have shown that MCFA promote thermogenesis (fat burning):

  • In one study showed that the bodies fat burning capabilities are raised when LCFA’s are replaced with MCFA’s .
  • An European study  found “that administration of thermogenetically acting triacylglycerol’s with medium-chain fatty acids can prevent diet-induced energetic efficiency and can improve the long-term success of dietotherapy of obese patients”.
  • A study on 40 women with abdominal obesity found that coconut oil reduces both the body mass index and lowered the waist circumferences.

MCFA’s have been shown to increase your metabolic rate (Energy Exposure):

  • These studies (Here, Here and Here) just simply adding MCFA’s to our diet will speed up your metabolism.
  • Another study conducted on MCFA’s and LCFA’s that looked into food intake found that men who substituted LCFA’s for MCFA’s ate less.

A lot of these studies are small in sample size, so in my opinion, the empirical and anecdotal evidence is more helpful.  If you look at the many island communities that get up to 60% of their daily caloric intake from coconut oil you will find that obesity is non- existent.  Dr. Weston Price found this out in the 30’s, when he traveled around the south pacific studying the local traditional diets and their effects on the dental and overall health.

When I started to consume 2-4 tablespoons of Coconut oil daily I experienced everything that these studies found and I know others that have as well.   My energy level went up, my waste-line and body fat index shrunk, and I ate a lot less. Then, (for a number of reasons) I was unable to consume any coconut oil for about 6 months.  I could feel the effects on my energy level almost instantly. Within a month or so, I started gaining back the weight and inches around my stomach that I had lost.  Recently, I have started introducing Coconut oil back into my diet again and am seeing the same results as before.

Heart:

Since the 50’s the “experts” have told us coconut oil (because of its saturated fat content) caused heart disease. In my article “The misconception of saturated fats” I discuss how this theory is not backed by actual science.  In fact, the science shows that coconut oil lowers the bad LDL cholesterol that clogs the arteries and raises the Good HDL cholesterol. Epidemiological studies also show that populations that consume the most coconut oil have almost no coronary heart disease as well.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; a fact that is made even more tragic when we consider we have been told for decades to avoid something that could actually lower this risk- and told instead to replace it with something that raises the risk.

Antimicrobial

Coconut oil is full of MCFA’s that have some very impressive anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-yeast and anti-protozoa properties.  In fact, after I started  to write this section, I decided that I needed to write another article specifically on coconut oil’s pretty amazing ability to a kill (or inactivate) a wide variety harmful internal micro-organisms.  According to subject matter expert Dr. Mary Enig these include: lipid-coated viruses such as: HIV, herpes, cytomegalovirus –influenza various pathogenic bacteria including: listeria monocytogenes and helicobacter pylori, and protozoa’s such as giardia lamblia.

The antimicrobial prowess of coconut oil is not confined to fighting off internal disease. It also helps fight off external germs and helps with oral care as you will see in the sections coming up.

Skin care

Dr.Verallo Rowell, a dermatologist and dermatopathologist, who started researching coconut oil’s effects on the skin in 1998, recently wrote a research paper  on her findings and the findings of other researchers.  A lot of her work was on monolaurin’s powerful antimicrobial properties but I’m going to focus on what she found in studies using virgin coconut oil (VCO).

Skin infections: She conducted two double-blind randomized controlled clinical trials (RCT) (one of which was published in a peer review journal) on topical VCO versus mineral oil in plaque-type psoriasis (Kusuma, Yap, and Verallo-Rowell 2007), and versus olive oil in atopic dermatitis (eczema) . Both studies show significant improvement with the use of VCO versus the other oils.  *On a personal note, I used to suffer from  psoriasis and I found that coconut oil was the only thing that helped it.

Skin moisturizer: She also personally conducted a RCT that showed VCO is a great moisturizer. Although this was a small trail it has since been used clinically on numerous patients, for dermatological conditions with dry skin. In atopic dermatitis and psoriasis patients at the author’s clinic, the regular application of VCO has repeatedly been found to have immediate moisturizing effects; and over time, to improve quality of life and to lower flare up rates of the primary condition. * I can confirm, like many other, it does make an amazing moisturizer.

Contact Dermatitis: Two studies (Martires, Montinola, Dizon,2006) and (Tiosudarmin and Verallo-Rowell, 2007) show VCO to be effective against contact dermatitis (rashes or inflammation caused by touching something) particularly diaper dermatitis.

Acne:  Unfortunately I have not been able to find any human studies on coconut oil effects on acne. There are however, many anecdotal evidence in the form of personal testimonies that confirm that coconut oil helps with their acne. This does make sense after seeing the studies I just mentioned in this section. It also is in line with the studies on lauric acid and acne.   These two studies (here and here) show lauric acid to be very effective at fighting acne.  An even more interesting study, which combined turmeric(more specifically the curcumin extracted from turmeric) with lauric acid, found the “Combined  effects of curcumin and lauric acid were found in inhibiting P. acnes.”

Sunscreen:  I sunburn easily and the last two summers I worked quite a bit outside while living in Phoenix. I wanted to avoid commercial sun screen because of the very dangerous chemicals inside them.  Especially chemicals like Retinyl Palmitate, a form a vitamin-a, which is a photocarcinogenic- meaning it causes cancer when sun light hits it!   When I started to learn about coconut oil I heard many stories of people having great success with coconut oil as a sunscreen because of its ability to block out the harmful UVA rays while letting in the beneficial UVB, which produces vitamin-d.  Since I started to use it I have not had a sunburn since.  I will say that if you are planning on being out in the sun for a while you will need to reapply it.

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Hair careCoconut oil helps strengthen hair by preventing protein loss- which can happen if you have a diet low in protein, or the simple fact that as we age, the protein is lost more quickly which leaves  hair (and nails) brittle. By preventing that loss, it also aids in maintaining/acquiring a thick head of hair (which everyone wants- girls and guys alike!). People have also had success preventing split ends as coconut oil has the ability to seal the tips.  The use of coconut oil has the added benefit  of making  your hair silky smooth.

With coconut oils great hydration capabilities, it should not be a surprise that it is great at combating dry scalp  . However, I think it may surprised many to find out that a recent study found coconut oil and anise spray was significantly more successful than permethrin (the most widely used lotion to treat lice)

Oral Health:

Mixing baking soda with coconut oil will produce a natural Toothpaste, which is great for those trying to avoid fluoride without having to pay for fluoride free toothpaste that is expensive.   The baking soda is a mild abrasive that can destroy the outer coating of plaque allowing coconut oil’s anti-bacterial properties to go to work.  I have not added baking soda to coconut oil to make the paste but I have used coconut oil by itself and have felt the improvement. Although, after my research, I’m excited to try them together!

The second oral health technique you can use coconut oil for is a called oil pulling. Oil pulling dates back thousands of years originating in India with Ayurvedic medicine.  Basically, it works by using the oil like it is mouthwash for at least 20 min.  The oil’s antimicrobial pulls out bacteria, viruses, fungi and some say it has the ability to pull some chemical toxins as well.  Dr. Mercola has this to say about oil pulling with coconut oil: “When done correctly, oil pulling has a significant cleansing, detoxifying and healing affect, not only for your mouth and sinuses but for the rest of your body as well. Candida and Streptococcus are common residents in your mouth, and these germs and their toxic waste products can contribute to plaque accumulation and tooth decay, in addition to secondary infections and chronic inflammation throughout your body. Oil pulling may help lessen the overall toxic burden on your immune system by preventing the spread of these organisms from your mouth to the rest of your body, by way of your bloodstream.”

Brain function:

I decided to end with one of my favorite benefits of coconut oil – its effects on the brain. I’m planning on writing an in-depth article on this so will do an overview here.

According to the CDC stats, Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in America and affects  4.3 million Americans . When the husband of a Florida Doctor (named Mary Newport) was diagnosed with advanced stage Alzheimer’s she started researching ways to cure the disease. She found that drug companies were starting to run trails using synthesized ketones to reverse the disease. This was because people brains that have Alzheimer’s have a problem with insulin that makes it very hard time accepting glucose (which is the main fuel for the brain).  This will eventually cause the brain to start to shrink. Ketones also fuel the brain but are not restricted by insulin, therefore are readily absorbed by the brain and used for fuel.

Her husband did not make it into the trail which leads her to start looking elsewhere and particularly at coconut oil.  She realized that the liver converted MCFA’s in coconut oil to ketone . So she started feeding her husband 4 tablespoons a day and he started showing drastic improvements in about 2 weeks. Within months he practically had fully recovered; not just mentally, but emotionally (the depression that often comes with Alzheimer’s) and physically (he was able to run again for the first time in years) as well.  Dr. Newport  later wrote a book about this called “Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure?” and has received thank you letters from people who also helped loved ones with Alzheimer’s by introducing coconut oil into their lives.

We live in a world with an ever-growing amount of mental and/or brain diseases that the ketones produced in the liver while breaking down the MCFA’s in coconut oil, maybe able to help. The problem is, no studies are currently being done because there is no profit to be made in a cheap oil that has this many health benefits. It makes no sense for a pharmaceutical company to try to find a cheap cure that would kill their bottom line.  They already attempted and failed horribly at making a synthetic ketone, so they could patent it and make a mountain of money off it. They may try to do this again, but they will never pay for a study that shows just eating coconut oil will treat any kind of disease. So if there are studies, they will be very small, independent studies that will most likely never be allowed to make it past the peer-reviewed process.  Meaning the anecdotal and empirical evidence is going to have to be enough to get you to try.

Conclusion:

Since I started researching the subject of nutrition and using food to give the body what it needs to self-heal, a number of friends have asked me what I think is the most important superfood to add to your diet. I always quickly answer that from my research and personal experience: coconut oil is the number one thing to add because of its truly amazing benefits and the fact that unlike some superfoods, it doesn’t break the bank to get a high quality organic product that can benefit your life in such a wide variety of ways.

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