A quick internet search of “Coconut Oil” may leave you feeling like this tropical oil is packed with health benefits for everything from weight loss and high cholesterol, to Alzheimer’s disease. But is it right for you?
However, is this really the case?
Here are the facts:
Made from the meat of matured coconuts, coconut oil is a tropical oil commonly used in cooking to fry foods. Coconut oil is also used industrially and as an alternative fuel source in some countries, and is often marketed as a health supplement.
There are three types of coconut oil:
- Virgin coconut oil: unrefined, extracted from fruit of fresh mature coconuts without using high temperatures or chemicals
- Refined coconut oil: made from dried coconut meat that is often chemically bleached & deodorized
- Partially hydrogenated coconut oil: used by food manufacturers in processed food products such as commercial baked goods; this processing turns some of the unsaturated fats into trans fats, which is closely associated to heart disease and other health problems
Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat – specifically lauric acid, which is a saturated fat classified as a medium- chain fatty acid. It can raise both “‘bad” and “good” cholesterol levels. Higher levels of cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Because of this, several national and international health organizations, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and American Heart Association, recommend not consuming high levels of coconut oil.
Based on early studies, there is preliminary evidence that coconut oil has a neutral, not beneficial, effect on cholesterol levels.
Many people claim that coconut oil has benefits that help everything from weight loss to Alzheimer’s disease; however, these claims are not backed by scientific research.
It is recommended if you do use coconut oil, to use virgin coconut oil and to skip products that contain partially hydrogenated coconut oil. I'd also recommend avoiding foods high in saturated fats. Instead, try to eat mainly monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, such as nuts, seeds, avocados.
While some foods or supplements can have wide-ranging health benefits, be careful when it comes to ones that lack proper and well-documented scientific research. For any questions about food or supplements, including coconut oil, make sure to talk to your physician or a registered dietician.