Coconut Oil Uses Benefits and Side Effects

Coconut Oil Uses Benefits and Side Effects

Coconut oil is an oil extracted from the kernel of coconut which is the fleshy part of the coconut fruit. Different varieties of coconut oil are available in the market, depending on the method used to extract the oil. Common types of coconut oil include the refined and unrefined coconut oil.


Coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature because of its high melting point- 76 degrees F. Coconut oil is known to have a stable shelf life, especially if it is preserved properly.  It is a unique amalgamation of fatty acids and can have positive effects on the human body. Therefore, this oil is highly suitable for cooking and can also be used as a moisturising agent for skin and hair.

Coconut Oil Uses Benefits and Side Effects


Some basic facts about coconut oil:


Scientific name of coconut: Coconut oil is derived from coconuts. The scientific name of coconut is Cocos Nucifera.

Family Name: Coconut tree belongs to the palm tree family called Arecaceae.

Common name: Nariyal tel

Native Region: More than 90 countries in the world grow coconut trees. The largest producer of coconut oil is the Philippines, followed by Indonesia and India. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh etc. are some of the states which grow coconut in India. According to the 2014-15 statistics of the Coconut Development Board of Government of India, just 4 states in South India accounted for 90% of the total coconut production in the country. Coimbatore and Tirupur are the top producers of coconut in India.

Some interesting facts about coconut: The information about the origin of coconut is not known, but scientists believe that coconut is a prehistoric plant that came from the South Pacific. The sailors that were aboard Vasco da Gama’s ship are believed to have given coconut its name.

  • Coconut oil nutrition facts
  • Coconut oil health benefits
  • Coconut oil side effects
  • Takeaway


Coconut oil nutrition facts

Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is a type of saturated fat. Although saturated fats aren't considered good for health, the type of saturated fat in coconut oil tends to increase the level of good cholesterol or HDL which is very beneficial for health.


The nutritional value of coconut oil as per USDA Nutrient Database is as follows:


Nutrients Value per 100g

Water 0.03 g

Energy 892 kcal

Fats 99.06 g

 

Minerals Value per 100 g

Calcium 1 mg

Iron 0.05 mg

Zinc 0.02 mg

 

Vitamins Value per 100 g

Vitamin E 0.11 mg

Vitamin K 0.6 µg

 

Fats/ Fatty acids Value per 100 g

Saturated 82.475 g

Monounsaturated 6.332 g

Polyunsaturated 1.702 g

Trans 0.028 g

Coconut oil health benefits

  • Coconut oil for cholesterol
  • Coconut oil suppresses appetite
  • Coconut oil for weight loss
  • Coconut oil as an antimicrobial
  • Coconut oil for skin
  • Coconut oil for hair
  • Coconut oil for oil pulling
  • Coconut oil benefits in Alzheimer's
  • Coconut oil keto diet for epilepsy

Coconut oil for cholesterol

Coconut oil contains about 82 g of saturated fatty acids per 100 g. Saturated fats are generally considered bad for health because it increases the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body. A diet rich in saturated fats could lead to potential heart problems.  

Although coconut oil contains saturated fats, about 50% of this fat is lauric acid. This lauric acid is believed to be responsible for increasing the level of good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. HDL or good cholesterol, in turn, helps in maintaining the heart and body health. A study done on a group of 116 people with coronary artery disease (CAD) showed that coconut oil significantly increased the level of HDL.


Coconut oil suppresses appetite

The fatty acids present in coconut oil can help reduce your hunger and appetite. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which is considered a medium chain triglyceride (MCT).  In a clinical study, six healthy men were given foods with different amounts of long and medium chain triglycerides (MCT and LCT) for a certain period of time. The study showed that men who ate foods rich in MCTs consumed fewer calories a day on an average compared to men who consumed foods rich in LCTs.  Another study constituting 14 men showed that the men who consumed breakfast rich in MCTs had a lower appetite.


Coconut oil for weight loss

Traditionally, coconut oil is believed to be effective in weight loss. Since coconut oil has medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), it could lead to weight loss in obese individuals. A study done on 13 people showed that replacing long-chain triglycerides (LCT) with MCT could lead to a reduction in body weight.


Another study done on 20 obese men indicated that coconut oil can reduce the waist circumference.


Coconut oil also proved to be effective in reducing the abdominal obesity in women. A study conducted on 40 women aged between 20 years and 40 years suggests that supplementing the diet with coconut oil for 12 weeks can help reduce the fat deposition in the abdomen.

Coconut oil as an antimicrobial

Studies suggest that the lauric acid and Glycerol monolaurate or monolaurin present in coconut oil are effective against a certain type of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus, which is capable of minor issues such as skin infection and pimples to life-threatening diseases such as meningitis and toxic shock syndrome.


Another study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of virgin coconut oil against the common infectious yeast, Candida. The study concluded that coconut oil is effective in inhibiting the growth of candida and it can be used to treat fungal infections caused by the Candida species.


Coconut oil for skin

Coconut oil is not just an ideal choice of oil for cooking, but it can also do wonders for your skin. A study was done to evaluate if coconut oil can be used as a moisturizer for the skin, to treat dry skin or Xerosis. A group of 34 patients was given coconut oil to be applied on their legs twice a day for a continuous period of 2 weeks. The research concluded that coconut oil is safe to be used as a moisturizer and efficiently alleviates the problem of dry skin.


Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a skin condition that is characterized by itchiness and red skin. It causes the skin to lose the water holding capacity and thus turn dry. In a clinical trial, a group of 117 pediatric patients with this skin condition was asked to apply coconut oil on their skin for a period of 8 weeks. At the end of the study, it was observed that coconut oil was very effective in hydrating the skin along with reducing the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.


Coconut oil for hair

Coconut oil is also proven to be beneficial for the hair. It is considered to be an effective hair conditioner and has been used in various hair products. In a study that involving 30 people who were given coconut oil to be applied on their hair, it was observed that people who were given coconut oil have less hair breakage. Coconut oil has also been proven effective against combing hair damage in different types of hair. It has been reported that coconut can reduce the loss of hair proteins that is generally responsible for weak hairs and excessive hair fall.


Coconut oil for oil pulling

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique where one swishes oil inside their mouth for about 20 minutes. Although there isn’t much evidence on the effectiveness of this method, it is believed to enhance oral health and prevent dental issues. The most commonly used types of oil in oil pulling is sesame oil or sunflower oil. But studies have shown that coconut oil is also as effective in this method.


Several studies have been done to test the effectiveness of coconut oil in maintaining oral health. In a clinical study, a group of 60 boys and girls were asked to do oil pulling with coconut oil for 30 days. At the end of the study, it was concluded that coconut oil is effective against plaque formation and can be used to prevent gingivitis.


Coconut oil benefits in Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease is one of the most common causes of dementia in elderly individuals. It is believed that when someone has Alzheimer’s, their nerve cells do not use sufficient glucose to produce the required energy for proper brain functioning. Although there is not enough evidence that coconut oil could be effective against Alzheimer's, it is believed that coconut can act as an alternative source of energy.


Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride. A keto diet with moderate amounts of MCT could be beneficial to patients suffering from early to middle stages of the Alzheimer’s disease.


A study conducted on 20 patients with AD showed that consumption of foods rich in MCT led to an improvement in the brain function of patients suffering from milder forms of the disease.


However, more research is required to prove that MCT is fully effective against AD.  


Coconut oil keto diet for epilepsy

A ketogenic diet is generally very low in carbohydrates and very high in fat. There are different variations of keto diets that are being used to treat seizures for a long time. Keto diet along with MCTs has especially been used for the treatment of epilepsy in children. A study conducted on 50 patients showed that MCT enhanced keto diet exhibits an excellent seizure control with minimal side effects. It was further suggested that MCT enhanced keto diets can be a good option for the treatment of epilepsy in children who have a bigger appetite and need more calories.


Coconut oil side effects

Allergy

There have not been many reported cases of coconut or coconut oil allergy. In a single case, an 8-month-old baby was reported to have developed a severe gastrointestinal problem after being fed infant formula containing coconut.

It is a common misconception that people who are allergic to tree nuts are also allergic to coconut. But a study done on 40 children who were allergic to peanuts and other types tree nuts showed that they were not allergic to coconut. If you have never used coconut oil before, it is advisable to consult a doctor and get an allergy test.

Coconut oil can increase the level of bad cholesterol in your body

Although half of the saturated fats present in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is responsible for increasing the level of good cholesterol in your body, any food rich in saturated fats is likely to also increase the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body. An increase in LDL is linked to heart problems. Therefore, if you are suffering from heart-related issues, coconut oil might not be an ideal choice.

Takeaway

It is true that coconut oil is called a “superfood”. It is rich in lauric acid which is very beneficial for the skin and brain health. It can do wonders for your body if consumed moderately.

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