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The Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has received a lot of press recently, after a Florida doctor claimed that she reversed her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease using four teaspoons of coconut oil daily.

Dr Mary Newport gave her husband Steve four teaspoons of coconut oil each day, and saw dramatic improvements in his Alzheimer’s symptoms in just two weeks. “He began to get his short-term memory back,” says Dr Newport. “His depression lifted, he became more like his old self. The problem he’d had with walking improved. An MRI scan showed his brain had stopped shrinking.”

She has since been gathering testimonials from others who have followed her example. “I do have a collection now of almost 220 reports, mostly from caregivers and some from the person themselves, reporting that they saw improvement after they started taking coconut oil” she reports.

The brain is fuelled by glucose. It appears that in Alzheimer’s patients, the brain has problems processing insulin, leading Alzheimer’s to be labelled ‘Type 3 diabetes’ or diabetes of the brain (1).

Dr Newport believes that coconut oil heals Alzheimer’s by enabling the brain to use an alternative fuel source, ketones, which are created in the body after consuming coconut oil.

Larger studies are needed to determine whether coconut oil offers hope to Alzheimer’s sufferers. In the meantime, Dr Newport provides access to her research to date on her website.

Coconut oil is thought to have a number of other health benefits, as a result of the unique properties of its fats. Coconut oil is a source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are digested more easily than other types of fat, and have beneficial effects such as boosting metabolism. The fats in coconut oil are also known to have antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Coconut oil has been linked with reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease

Below are five key health benefits attributed to this unique oil.

1. As the gallbladder is not needed to emulsify the fats in coconut oil, this oil is a good choice of fat for those who have had their gallbladder removed, or those who have problems digesting fats.

2. Oils such as vegetable oil and sunflower oil can get damaged during heating, leading to the production of trans fats. Coconut oil on the other hand is ideal for cooking as it is a heat-stable saturated fat.

3. Coconut oil in the diet does not raise cholesterol levels, and has been linked to a decrease in abdominal fat (2).

4. Coconut oil has antifungal properties, and has been found to kill Candida albicans, the most problematic of the candida species (3, 4).

5. Coconut oil has natural emollient and antibacterial effects when applied directly to the skin. Studies have suggested benefits for those with eczema and acne (5,6).

My view is that those who don’t consume coconut often would benefit from adding a little fresh coconut or good quality (unhydrogenated) coconut oil to their diet. For those who would like to try adding coconut oil to their diet, mixing a teaspoon of coconut oil into your morning oatmeal is a simple way to do this. Coconut oil can also be used as a spread in place of butter or margarine. Finally, coconut oil is ideal for cooking as it is stable when heated, making it perfect for baking and stir-fries.

References

1. Accardi G et al (2012) Can Alzheimer disease be a form of type 3 diabetes? Rejuvenation Res Apr;15(2):217-21

2. Assuncao et al (2009) Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids. Jul;44(7):593-601.

3. Ogblu DO et al (2007) In vitro antimicrobial properties of coconut oil on Candida species in Ibadan, Nigeria. Jun;10(2):384-7.

4.Agarwal V et al (2008) Prevention of Candida albicans biofilm by plant oils. Mycopathologia. January, Volume 165, Issue 1, pp 13-19

5. Verallo-Rowell et al (2008) Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis.  Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15.

6. Nakatsuii T et al (2009) Antimicrobial property of lauric acid against Propionibacterium acnes: its therapeutic potential for inflammatory acne vulgaris. J Invest Dermatol 129(10):2480-8. 

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The health benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil has recently become increasingly prevalent both in the media and in current research which has found that many of its contents can be extremely beneficial to health.  For example, one recent study (1) published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine this year reported on its vast medicinal aspects, as it has been found to be antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, antioxidant, immunostimulant (supports the immune system), and the list goes on.

The health benefits of coconut oil
Current research has found that coconut oil can be extremely beneficial to health. (8)

Additionally, another study (2) comments on previous research reporting on the many health benefits of coconut oil. These include preventing illnesses and diseases, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, aiding digestion and helping to keep skin elastic and silky, keeping wrinkles at bay.  This can be attributed to its numerous nutrient contents including being rich in medium chain fatty acids, such as lauric acid which has shown to inhibit harmful elements (pathogens) within the body which can help to slow the effects of ageing (3).  This study (3) also found that virgin coconut oil had greater antioxidant activity than the refined oil and another study (4) suggested that coconut oil intake is associated with beneficial lipid profiles which promotes healthy cholesterol levels due to its high density lipoprotein content.  An all round health booster!

Also, you may have seen the recent article in the Daily Mail (5) that reports on the use of coconut oil by supermodel Miranda Kerr (wife of actor Orlando Bloom), where she is quoted as saying that she credited her glowing clear skin and shiny hair to the oil.  One study (6) also reported on the oils beneficial effects to the skin saying that it had shown to have antimicrobial effects on fungi and viruses which can inhabit atopic dermatitis.  In this study, published in 2008 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, patients topically treated with virgin coconut oil (by rubbing the oil into their skin) reported significantly reduced scores for dryness and related conditions.  Therefore you may find some relief from rubbing this oil into your dry spots on your elbows, knees and ankles or even see if this helps with sunburn or any other problem skin areas.

Also, another study (7) identified the superior effects of coconut oil when applied (topically) to hair before conditioning compared to mineral oil and other vegetable oils such as sunflower oil. They reported protective effects to both undamaged and chemically treated hair.  They attributed this effect to the ability of coconut oil to access the hair cuticle and lubricate it, which reduces water retention and swelling.  You may also find that coconut oil can help with split ends.

So as well as being a healthy oil when consumed on salads, used as a cooking oil or even a spoonful in your green tea just like Miranda Kerr, you can also benefit from using this oil topically on skin and hair.

P.S.  A top tip may be to rub some into your shoes to soften them which may prevent any irritation they may cause you, as well as making your feet smell like coconuts!

Written by Lauren Foster

 

References

(1) DebMandal, M. & Mandal, S. (2011) Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): In health promotion and disease prevention. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, 241-247.

 (2) Arenillo, S.A (2008) Yield and Quality of Virgin Coconut Oil Using Varieties of Coconuts. Liceo Journal of Higher Education Research, Vol. 5, No. 2, 190-198.

 (3) Marina, A.M., Che Man, Y.B. & Amin, I.(2009) Virgin coconut oil: emerging functional food oil. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 20, 481-487.

 (4) Feranil, A.B., Duazo, P.L., Kuzawa, C.W., Adair, L.S. (2011) Coconut oil is associated with a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women in the Philippines. Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 20, (2):190-195.

 (5) Daily Mail (2011) Victoria’s Secret? Coconut oil… Sales boom as model Miranda Kerr reveals daily dose of ‘healthy fat’ is key to her beauty. Mail Online. (Online):   (Accessed 5/9/2011).

 (6) Verallo-Rowell, V.M., Dillague, K.M., Syah-Tjundawan, B.S. (2008) Novel Antibacterial and Emollient Effects of Coconut and Virgin Olive Oils: Methods, Dermatitis, 19(6):308-15.

 (7) Rele, A.S. & Mohile, R.B. (2003) Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 54(2):175-92.

(8) Image courtesy of pixomar.

 

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