Virgin Coconut Oil: Miracle Oil?

4 03 2013

It’s amazing when you are researching a subject on the internet and one thing leads to another and then you learn about something you’ve never heard of before – it’s like pulling a thread on an old sock. I got interested in the subject of this post – coconut oil – when I wrote about fats and oils. There is so much to learn about coconut oil and I found it all fascinating. For example, I was wowed by what I learned about the possible relationship between coconut oil and Alzheimer’s. Maybe you will be too. Shall we get started?

Coconut Oil is Bad For You Isn’t It? NO!

Back in the 70’s and 80’s, the corn and soybean industry led a propaganda campaign against coconut oil and bad-mouthed it as a highly saturated fat (which it is) and that it was making everybody fat and was bad for the heart, etc. Of course it turns out that’s not true, and the vegetable and seed oils they were pushing turn out to be trans fats, which really are bad for you. I remember checking labels and being very wary of coconut oil. Every so often, I would make Thai food and had to use coconut milk in the recipes – it tasted delicious but I knew it wasn’t good for me. So, I guess the soybean/vegetable oil business won the oil war! How wrong they were – and they knew it! It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that people started asking questions.

There are Fats and Then There are Fats

The saturated fat in coconut oil contains fatty acids called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. In fact, coconut oil is nature’s richest source of medium-chain triglycerides. In contrast, most vegetable and seed oils contain fatty acids called long-chain triglycerides or LCTs. What’s the difference? Basically, LCTs end up stored as fat in the body and as cholesterol in the arteries. MCTs, on the other hand, are quickly digested and go straight to the liver where they are converted to energy and are never stored as fat. With a reduction in carbs, coconut oil consumption can actually help with weight loss!

Let’s take a closer look. Coconut oil consists of more than 90% of saturated fats with traces of some unsaturated fatty acids, such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Here’s a breakdown:

Saturated fatty acids: Lauric acid (more than 40%), followed by capric acid, caprylic acid, myristic acid and palmitic.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids: Linoleic acid.
Monounsaturated fatty acids: Oleic acid.
Polyphenols: Coconut contains gallic acid, which is phenolic acid. (responsible for the fragrance and the taste)
Certain derivatives of fatty acids like betaines, ethanolamide, ethoxylates, fatty esters, fatty polysorbates, monoglycerides and polyol esters.
Derivatives of fatty alcohols like fatty chlorides, fatty alcohol sulphate and fatty alcohol ether sulphate.
Vitamins: Vitamin-E and Vitamin K and minerals such as iron.

Lauric Acid is the Secret Ingredient

Lauric acid is in abundance in coconut oil and . . .breast milk! Lauric acid turns in to the compound monolaurin when it is processed through the liver. Monolaurin is responsible for strengthening our immune systems to help keep us healthy and to resist disease. A lot of research has been done on lauric acid and monolaurin but basically it disrupts the fatty membranes of “offending” or invading organisms which deactivates them or kills them. So, the same substance in mother’s milk that protects infants from viral, bacterial or protozoal infections is also found in coconut oil to help adults fight disease! Coconut oil is the best source of lauric acid, but it is also found, in lesser amounts, in milk and bay leaf.

The Health Benefits of Coc0nut Oil

The health benefits of coconut oil are too numerous and the research too vast to cover in detail in this post. The most comprehensive review of coconut oil that I’ve read is Dr. Bruce Fife’s book, The Coconut Oil Miracle. In a very readable fashion, he explains coconut oil, the chemistry of fats, and discusses in detail all the health benefits of coconut oil and how to use it in your life. (http://www.amazon.com/Coconut-Miracle-Previously-published-Healing/dp/1583332049/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362254554&sr=8-1&keywords=the+coconut+oil+miracle) Coconut oil is not a panacea for all ills and if you’re not exercising or you’re eating a lot of junk food, it is definitely not going to help. I consider coconut oil to be one part of a good health care regime. Generally speaking though, coconut oil (ingested or applied topically) is thought to:

– Support killing viruses (flu, herpes, measles, etc.), bacteria (ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, etc.), and fungi and yeast (candidiasis, athlete’s foot, diaper rash)
– Support and aid immune system function.
– Provide a nutritional source of energy
– Improve digestion and absorption of nutrients
– Improve cholesterol ratio and protect against atherosclerosis and other heart disease
– Function as a protective antioxidant
– Support thyroid function
– Form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward off infection and reduce symptoms associated with psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis, and dry skin in general
– Promote healthy looking hair and complexion; and help control dandruff

Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s

One of the most compelling things I stumbled upon in my research was Dr. Mary Newport’s personal story about her husband’s early onset Alzheimer’s and coconut oil. It’s definitely controversial, but because of the possible relationship between insulin, synapses, brain, and memory, some are actually calling Alzheimer’s Type 3 diabetes. Scientists say  that Alzheimer’s patients’ brains have lower levels of insulin and are insulin resistant. It’s kind of technical, but simply put, scientists at Northwestern discovered that a certain protein (ADDL) binds to synapses in the brain wrecking the receptor for insulin. With the synapses closed off, insulin can’t get in to the brain and convert to glucose, which feeds the brain, and memory fails. Basically, the brain is starving. This is where Dr. Newport’s story comes in. It turns out there is an alternative fuel for the brain in the form of ketone esters, organic chemical compounds. A study from the 1960’s showed that the brain easily switches over to using ketone bodies during starvation when glucose supplies are used up. And guess what? Ketones are metabolized in the liver after you eat medium chain triglycerides – found in coconut oil! Ketone esters can be manufactured in the laboratory but it’s very expensive to produce large quantities and since they come from “nature”, can’t be patented, and therefore pharmaceutical companies can’t profit (an old story). Research and fundraising is going on now, but until they find a way to produce the needed quantities at optimum strength levels, the next best thing is coconut oil.

In short, Dr. Newport’s husband went for testing and couldn’t draw a clock. She stumbled on coconut oil and started putting it in his oatmeal. Two weeks later, he drew another clock but it actually started to look like a clock. And two weeks later, it was an even better clock. His story may be an anomaly, or it may mean real help for Alzheimer’s patients. To be clear, he’s not cured; but he is better. Research is ongoing.

The videos listed below are of this couple’s experience with early onset Alzheimer’s. They take some time to watch, but I found them fascinating. Also, google “Alzheimer’s and coconut oil” and other videos will pop up to view about other people’s experiences.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iScs0uzQZFk&p=8AB3004B11E5C8F2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOrDIixbGMs&p=8AB3004B11E5C8F2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIfY-lHDLRk&p=8AB3004B11E5C8F2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2jp7BhDFrU&feature=autoplay&list=PL8AB3004B11E5C8F2&index=4&playnext=2

Coconut Oil Basics

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and melts at 76 degrees.

The chemical makeup of virgin coconut oil is pretty standard but depending on how it’s processed, the amount of lauric acid can vary from brand to brand. As stated above, most virgin coconut oils contain at least 40% lauric acid. Manufacturers of extra virgin coconut oils claim to have 50% or more lauric acid.

There are approximately 117 calories per TBSP of coconut oil. As far as dosage is concerned, I found this on the Livestrong website: “No recommended dose of coconut oil exists, but Pacific Islanders’ traditional diet provides several grams of lauric acid, or at least 1 tbsp. coconut oil, daily. Between 10g to 20g lauric acid daily may benefit your health, suggests lipid biochemistry expert Dr. Mary G. Enig. Coconut oil contains 50 percent lauric acid, so 1 tbsp. coconut oil provides around 7g lauric acid. This means 1 to 3 tbsp. daily is an appropriate dose.”

When you are shopping for coconut oil, you want to be sure to buy virgin coconut oil as opposed to plain coconut oil. In general, plain coconut oil may have been cleaned with chemicals before processing, and is then put in a centrifuge which removes the smell and flavor. You want to avoid consuming this type of coconut oil as it doesn’t contain all the fatty acids you want and may actually contain some trans fats. Look for Virgin Coconut Oil or Extra Virgin Coconut Oil when you go shopping. Also, in my experience, they are all organic as well.

Coconut oil does not form harmful by-products, such as trans fats, when heated to normal cooking temperature like other vegetable oils do. I have replaced all oils except olive oil with virgin coconut oil in my cooking. I use it on baked asparagus, homemade french fries, frying eggs, a big glop in my smoothie, in fish marinades, in my oatmeal, popping popcorn, in all baking that calls for oil – you name it. At first I noticed the gentle, slightly sweet flavor, for example when eating eggs; but now I don’t notice it at all anymore. Actually, I regularly take a spoonful and eat it just like candy and let it float around and melt in my mouth. It’s good! I still use olive oil in salad dressings and when a recipe must have it, or for dipping. Remember, olive oil only develops trans fats when it’s cooked.

Coconut oil is excellent for hair care and skin care. I keep a jar of virgin coconut oil in the bathroom. After showering, I take a glob in my hand, it melts quickly, and I rub it on my legs and arms. It absorbs quickly and is another way to get it in to your system. I have not tried it on my hair yet. I just discovered a product called Capriclear. Capriclear is a spray-on skin care product that is fractionated coconut oil (see Wikipedia below) and is supposed to help with dry skin and eczema. (http://www.capriclear.com/) It’s especially good for people who find they are allergic to coconut oil but need skin care help.

It is possible to be allergic to coconut oil and you’ll just have to determine that for yourself.

Shopping for Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil is pretty common on most grocery store shelves now, even at the commissary. In the beginning, I ordered online, then I found it at the commissary but I don’t think it’s the best (Spectrum), and I’ve also purchased it at the Vitamin Store. But now, I’ve found it at Costco! Costco sells extra virgin coconut oil in a big tub and it is comparatively inexpensive and delicious. I currently have Nutiva Extra Virgin Coconut oil that I brought home from the Costco in Seattle which my sister found. I checked our Costco here in Virginia and they have it too – but a different brand.

Spectrum now makes a spray coconut oil which replaces the Pam-type sprays. It’s worked out great for baking – you do have to run it under hot water each time because the nozzle gets clogged when the can is cold.

Resources

Obviously, there is so much to know and learn and discover about coconut oil. Also, there’s so much to know scientifically about diet, oils and how they break down in cooking, and the chemistry of it all. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to do another post (aside from travel and a couple other issues – with a little procrastination thrown in there) – it’s easy to get bogged down on how to present so much information briefly and accurately! SO, I highly recommend you checking out Dr. Fife’s book, mentioned above, and all of my resources below! You’ll start pulling that sock thread too!

http://products.mercola.com/coconut-oil/?utm_expid=9502835-6
http://bestsuperfoods.wordpress.com/category/coconut-oil/
http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-oils/organic-coconut-oil/health-benefits-of-coconut-oil.html
http://coconutoil.com/litalee/
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1673236,00.html
http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/10-health-benefits-of-virgin-coconut-oil.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_oil
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_oil
http://coconutketones.blogspot.com/2013/01/new-important-article-on-ketone-ester.html
http://www.naturepacific.com/contents/en-us/d46_what_is_virgin_coconut_oil.html
http://www.livestrong.com/article/287491-how-much-coconut-oil-should-i-eat-daily/


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2 responses

4 03 2013
Jack Dawson

Very educational and I intend to try it post haste. Thanks again for your research and sharing it with us all. Love, Uncle Jack

4 03 2013
quinnkim

Your best article yet!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you.

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