Coconut oil, formerly maligned for its high levels of saturated fats, has begun to enjoy improved status in the nutrition world due to research that has shed new light on its diverse health benefits. Rich, delicious and satisfying, coconut oil can be part of your healthy diet.
Coconut oil may help heal minor skin infections, according to a study published in the October 2007 issue of the "Journal of Drugs in Dermatology." Researchers took samples of bacteria from newborns to 18-year-old patients with skin infections and tested them with six different antibiotics and the coconut oil fatty acid monolaurin. The coconut extract showed broad spectrum activity against a variety of different bacteria and most of the bacteria were not resistant to it. Another study showed potential for coconut oil to be used as a food preservative. Researchers found that monolaurin was was effective at killing bacteria in protein foods, but was less effective at killing bacteria in carbohydrates and fats.
Coconut oil may help keep your cholesterol in check, according to a study published in the 2011 issue of the "Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition." The study, which measured cholesterol levels in women ages 35 to 69, found that those who consumed more coconut oil had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the good form of cholesterol. The association was greatest for pre-menopausal women. Researchers did not see a connection between coconut oil consumption and levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, the bad form of cholesterol.
Some doctors and health experts, such as Dr. Joseph Mercola and nutritionist Cherie Calbom, recommend including coconut oil in your diet to help you reach and maintain your ideal weight. According to Chalbom, co-author of the book "The Coconut Diet: The Secret Ingredient That Helps You Lose Weight While You Eat Your Favorite Foods, " medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil take a shortcut directly to the liver, where they are quickly turned into energy, thereby increasing metabolism and promoting weight loss. In contrast, long-chain triglycerides first travel in the lymphatic system and then are deposited into the bloodstream close to the heart, where they can promote damaging plaque formation. In a laboratory animal study published in the October 2005 issue of the journal "Biochimica et Biophysica Acta," coconut oil-based diets resulted in lower body fat than soy oil-based diets. However, a four-week trial of coconut oil for weight reduction, published in the 2011 issue of the journal "ISRN Pharmacology" helped obese male participants, but not obese female participants, lose abdominal weight.
Coconut oil helps balance blood sugar and improve glucose tolerance, according to a study published in the March 2001 issue of the journal "Endocrinology." The laboratory animal study found that two-week diets consisting of 5 percent coconut oil had similar effects on insulin secretion to an olive-oil-suplemented diet. However, olive oil was more effective at improving glucose tolerance. Coconut oil has a more beneficial effect at increasing levels of antioxidant enzymes and improving glucose tolerance than peanut oil, an oil commonly used in commercial food preparation, according to a study published in the June 2010 issue of the "Indian Journal of Pharmacology." However, since these were animal studies, more research will be needed before coconut oil can be recommended for blood sugar management.
- Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: Novel Antibacterial Activity of Monolaurin Compared with Conventional Antibiotics against Organisms from Skin Infections
- Journal of Food Science: Antibacterial Interactions of Monolaurin with Commonly Used Antimicrobials and Food Components
- Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Coconut Oil is Associated with a Beneficial Lipid Profile in Pre-Menopausal Women in the Philippines
- Biochimica et Biophysica Acta: Dietary Coconut Oil Increases Conjugated Linoleic Acid-induced Body Fat Loss in Mice Independent of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency
- ISRN Pharmacology: An Open-Label Pilot Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Virgin Coconut Oil in Reducing Visceral Adiposity
- Endocrinology: Monounsaturated Fatty Acid Diets Improve Glycemic Tolerance Through Increased Secretion of Glucagon-like Peptide-1
- Indian Journal of Pharmacology: Effect of Saturated Fatty Acid-rich Dietary Vegetable Oils on Lipid Profile, Antioxidant Enzymes and Glucose Tolerance in Diabetic Rats
- Dr. Mercola's Total Health Program: The Proven Plan to Prevent Disease and Premature Aging, Optimize Weight and Live Longer; Joseph Mercola, Brian Vaszily and Nancy Lee Bentley
- The Coconut Diet: The Secret Ingredient That Helps You Lose Weight While You Eat Your Favorite Foods; Cherie Calbom and John Calbom
Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.