One of the biggest problems with eating out is that most restaurants use unhealthy oils. And because you don’t have control over the oils these places use, you want to try to avoid consuming these oils as much as possible, and of course when you are cooking at home you want to use higher quality oils. Olive oil and coconut oil are two of the healthier oils, and in this blog post I’ll discuss many of the health benefits of coconut oil, and the next blog post I will focus on olive oil. In the next post I will also mention a few other healthier oils, and I will also discuss some of the oils you should try your best to avoid.
So let’s go ahead and talk about coconut oil…
Basic facts: coconut oil is extracted from the meat of coconuts. It is an excellent source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which have numerous health benefits. There are a few different components of coconut oil, but three of the main ones include lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid. Approximately 50% of coconut oil consists of lauric acid. Let’s take a look at each of these compounds:
Lauric acid. This is also known as dodecanoic acid, and as I mentioned above, it compromises approximately half of the fatty acid content in coconut oil. One study looked at the antimicrobial effects of virgin coconut oil on Clostridium difficile (1). The study showed that while exposure to lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid inhibited its growth, lauric acid had the greatest inhibitory effect (1). Another study showed that lauric acid can be an alternative for the antibiotic treatment of acne vulgaris (2).
Capric acid. This is also known as decanoic acid, and like lauric acid, it’s a type of saturated fatty acid in coconut oil. Like lauric acid, capric acid also has numerous antimicrobial properties, as while a study I mentioned earlier showed that lauric acid had the greatest inhibitory effect on C. difficile, the study showed that capric acid also had inhibitory properties (1). Both capric acid and lauric acid demonstrate bactericidal and anti-inflammatory activities against Propionibacterium acnes, which might be involved in acne inflammation (3). Another study showed that capric acid caused the fastest and most effective killing of three strains of Candida albicans, although lauric acid was the most active at lower concentrations and after a longer incubation time (4). Another study showed that capric acid has inhibitory effects on osteoclast development (5). Osteoclasts break down bone, and so capric acid might be useful for the treatment of bone resorption-associated conditions (5).
Caprylic acid. This is also known as octanoic acid. Caprylic acid also has antimicrobial properties. In fact, one study claimed that caprylic acid is superior to Diflucan, which is a potent prescription antifungal (6). The same study also claimed that caprylic acid has potential application for anti-cancer, anti-aging, anti-Alzheimer’s disease, anti-autism, anti-infection, and general circulatory improvement (6).
Uses: Coconut oil has many different uses. Here are just a few of them:
- It’s a great oil for cooking. Because of its high saturated fat content it is slow to oxidize, and thus is less likely to become rancid like most other oils.
- Add coconut oil to your smoothies (like I do!). I usually rotate between coconut oil and avocados, and when I add coconut oil to my smoothies I’ll add approximately one tablespoon.
- Use it as a lotion or moisturizer for dry skin
- It’s great for oil pulling. This is something I commonly do, as I will put a little less than one tablespoon of coconut oil in my mouth a few days per week and swish it around. And there is a study which shows that oil pulling with coconut oil can decrease plaque formation and gingivitis (7).
- Many people use coconut oil as a carrier oil for essential oils
- Coconut oil can also be used as a hair conditioner, although I can’t say that I personally have used it in this manner.
What Type Of Coconut Oil Should You Use?
Coconut oil needs to be extracted from the coconut. Virgin coconut oil is the least refined type. Virgin coconut oil has a higher antioxidant status than non-virgin coconut oil (8). I add virgin coconut oil to my smoothies. However, some sources claim that you want to use refined coconut oil when cooking at very high temperatures, as it has a higher smoke point than virgin coconut oil. The smoke point of an oil is the temperature under which volatile compounds and other potentially harmful products are released. If you are using coconut oil as a carrier oil for essential oils then you want to use either virgin coconut oil, or fractionated coconut oil.
Other Research Studies on Coconut Oil
Although earlier I discussed some of the research with regards to the individual components of coconut oil (lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid), there are many other studies which discuss the health benefits of using coconut oil.
Cardiovascular health. Coconut oil can benefit cardiovascular health, and one study showed how virgin coconut oil has cardioprotective effects (9). Another study showed that virgin coconut oil prevents blood pressure elevation and improves endothelial function (10). Another study shows that coconut oil can lead to a beneficial lipid profile (11).
Candida. Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties, and can be especially effective against Candida species. I mentioned some of the research regarding Candida earlier, and one study discussed the problems with drug-resistant Candida species, and suggested that coconut oil should be used in the treatment of fungal infections (12).
Insulin resistance. Can coconut oil help with insulin resistance? One study showed evidence that virgin coconut oil might prevent the development of insulin resistance (13). Another study showed that coconut oil can lead to lower glucose and insulin concentrations (14).
Alzheimer’s disease. One study showed that the medium-chain fatty acids of coconut oil might be beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease by converting to ketones, which are an alternative energy source in the brain (15).
Anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. One study I came across showed that virgin coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties (16).
Bone density. A rat study I came across showed that rats who consumed virgin coconut oil had greater bone volume, and the study concluded that virgin coconut oil was effective in maintaining bone structure and preventing bone loss (17).
Can Coconut Oil Increase Thyroid Hormone Production?
Can coconut oil have a direct effect on thyroid health? Well, some sources claim that coconut oil can raise basal body temperatures and increase metabolism. And because of this some feel that coconut oil can benefit people with hypothyroid conditions, and if you do some searching on the Internet you’ll find some websites which claim that taking coconut oil can help to boost thyroid function. And if this is the case, then those with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease might be concerned that taking coconut oil can be harmful by increasing thyroid hormone production. Well, there are no studies I’m aware of which show that taking coconut oil can improve thyroid function. In addition, I commonly recommend coconut oil to those with both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid conditions, and I can’t say that I’ve seen problems with people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease taking coconut oil.
So hopefully you learned some valuable information about coconut oil in this blog post. Although it is questionable as to whether coconut oil has a direct effect on thyroid health, it seems to have many other health benefits. One of the greatest benefits is that it has antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil is also a great oil for cooking, it can be used for oil pulling and as a carrier for essential oils, it can be used as a lotion or moisturizer, and it can be added to your smoothies. Virgin coconut oil is the least refined type, and it has a higher antioxidant status than non-virgin coconut oil. In the next blog post I’m going to talk in detail about olive oil, and I’ll also briefly mention a few other healthier oils you can consume.