Is coconut oil healthy?
I do my best to carry a good dose of skepticism with anything. Coconut oil gets so much damn hype from the alternative health community you’d think just allowing the magic substance to touch your lips would make you live forever.
It won’t. By the way.
But the oil is actually quite different than almost all other fats out there.
That’s what we are going to discuss in this article.
Plus much more.
It seems like you only began to hear a lot about coconut oil starting less than 8 years ago.
Today it’s a billion dollar industry.
Almost everybody knows that organic virgin cold-pressed is the best stuff, as opposed to the refined stuff.
Virgin is simply a word indicating the least processed type.
Don’t forget that “cold-pressed” part either. It’s something that health food nuts will make damn sure to remind you.
First and foremost let’s get one thing straight – coconut oil is not the whole coconut.
It makes no difference whether it’s cold-pressed or expeller pressed or however it is processed. The oil that is getting all of the hype is not the whole coconut.
If you are wondering is coconut oil healthy – this is not a bad thing, it’s just something to note.
Coconut butter is more like the whole coconut.
The butter contains more of the flesh.
If you want to emulate the diet of the Tokelau people and other Islanders whose natural diets brought about immense health you’d be far better sticking as close to the whole coconut as possible.
For those who don’t know – these people are well documented as consuming 50% of their calories from saturated fat derived from coconuts.
This, of course, is a slap in the face to those who still claim that saturated fat is not healthy.
Anytime I hear the American Heart Association (AHA) and other publically funded bureaucratic organizations claiming saturated fat is bad I laugh.
Is coconut oil healthy according to the AHA?
But no saturated fat is according to them.
The AHA has probably caused more deaths with their stupid recommendations to avoid saturated fat and cholesterol than any other organization on earth.
I chat about that in this post.
The point is, if it were not healthy you would not be getting these extreme health benefits among populations who consume a lot of it.
Those claiming it’s not healthy are usually misinformed or, even more likely, funded by industries who have ulterior motives.
Just a few of the sponsors of the AHA at the time of this post are Cheerios and Bayer (feel free to Google it).
So, one company that markets its product as “heart healthy” and depends on low-fat health claims and another who pumps heart pills.
But that is a discussion for another day.
So, once again, all coconut oil is refined.
Virgin coconut oil is simply less refined than the others. And among virgin coconut oils – the two most typical ways of extracting the oil from the coconut are either through cold-pressing or expeller pressing.
The main difference between those two extraction methods is the heat that is generated.
Cold-pressing generates less heat.
This is the major claim as to why it is a healthier form of virgin coconut oil. Less heat means less harm to the oil and all of its components.
However, if all you have available is expeller pressed it is not the end of the world.
Is coconut oil healthy if it is expeller pressed?
Any of the benefits we are going to discuss here would certainly apply to both forms.
These are the two forms of coconut oil I personally use. I stay away from all others – especially anything that has been hydrogenated.
Hydrogenated coconut oils contain trans fats, one substance I try never to put in my body.
With that said, let’s discuss some of the benefits for those who are wondering is coconut oil healthy.
Coconut Oil Increases Thermogenesis & Fat Loss
Yes, coconut oil does actually burn fat.
It is made of these little buggers known as medium chain fatty acids which are also called medium chain fatty acids. (MCFA).
Most other fat consists of long chain fatty acids (LCFA). Things like olive oil, saturated fat from animal products, nut butter are all examples.
LCFA are not bad just because they consist of longer chains of carbon.
They are simply metabolized far different in the body.
The more carbon chains the more processing required.
Because about 65% of coconut oil is made of medium chain fatty acids it can actually be broken down very easily in the digestive tract and sent directly to the liver where it is either used for energy or turned into ketones (I’ll discuss ketones in a minute) and sent out into the blood as fuel for the rest of the body.
This makes it a fast energy source and less likely to be stored as fat.
Research has shown that coconut oil can speed up your metabolism and lead to the increased burning of fat.
One study showed that cardiac patients who were placed on a diet containing coconut oil actually experienced reduced waist circumference and raised HDL.
Again, because coconut oil consists of medium chain fatty acids it can be used as an immediate source of energy.
There are no shortcuts for long chain fatty acids.
They go through several stages of processing and, as a result, are much more likely to be stored as body fat.
Again, this doesn’t make LCFA bad, it just means that diets high in LCFA are much more likely to lead fat gain. This is why I make a point of warning people that if they go extreme paleo and eat nothing but whole eggs, fatty cuts of meat and nuts they shouldn’t be shocked when they start to get fat as hell.
I think many aspects of Paleo are awesome and I apply them to my own life, but large amounts of dietary fat will make you fat.
This is where coconut oil has the edge over other fat.
Although it’s over 90% saturated fat – the fat consists of MCFA and is digested differently.
Another study found that obese men who were given coconut oil over the course of four weeks had significant waist reduction.
Quoting from the study:
MCFAs are easily oxidized lipids and are not stored in adipose tissue unlike long chain fatty acids (LCFAs). Thus, coconut oil containing mainly MCFAs with little or no LCFAs may provide an ideal food source for weight reduction
Which brings me to the next point.
Is Coconut Oil Healthy for Your Heart?
Since coconut oil is 90% saturated fat it takes a lot of heat when it comes to heart health.
For people wondering is coconut oil healthy – this is usually what trips them up.
But as we’ve discussed in the past in my cholesterol post – neither saturated fat or cholesterol have ever been shown to cause heart disease.
It’s a total myth.
In fact, as we discussed in that cholesterol post, those getting more saturated fat have been found to have lower instances of heart disease.
Yes, it’s true, that some studies indicated that eating saturated fat raises LDL (the so-called bad cholesterol) to some extent in some people (the keyword there is some).
One thing you will also note is that many of the studies that indicated that coconut oil is so bad for the heart because it skyrockets LDL are performed using hydrogenated coconut oil.
I realize that scientists are considered to be some of the smartest people in the world – but it’s truly an idiotic thing to assume that the effects of hydrogenated oil will be the same as the oil in its natural state.
Hydrogenating is effectively turning the oil into a trans fat.
As we’ve discussed in the past – LDL, by itself, is not really an indicator of anything.
It’s more about the ratio of total cholesterol to LDL in your system.
There really is no such thing as good or bad cholesterol. They are just markers. So LDL, by itself, can’t really tell you much.
As Dr. Mark Hyman points out…
The reality is, cholesterol is not black and white. Classifying it as “good” or “bad” vastly oversimplifies this molecule, which among its duties helps synthesize vitamin D and hormones while maintaining cell structure
Again, you can’t discuss LDL without also discussing HDL.
One study took 41 healthy Pacific Islander Polynesians and examined the impacts of either butter, coconut and then safflower oil in sequential six week periods.
They found that coconut oil significantly raised HDL.
And, in terms of heart health, all you have to do is look at cultures who consume a lot of coconut oil to get a first-hand account of just how good it is for the heart.
We mentioned the Tokelau people above who showed zero signs of heart disease despite eating 50% of their diet in coconut fat.
The Kitavans are another.
So is coconut oil healthy for the heart?
Yes. According to real world evidence.
50% Lauric Acid In Coconut Oil
We’ve already discussed how coconut oil consists primarily of medium chain fatty acids.
This allows it to be used as an instant energy source.
There are different types of medium chain fatty acids and one of the more beneficial is lauric acid.
Around 50% of the fatty acid content in coconut oil consists of lauric acid, which makes it one of the single richest sources on planet earth.
There are other sources of medium chain fatty acids.
Cow’s milk, for example, has lauric acid but it only makes up a little less than 3% of the fat content.
It is the high lauric acid content of coconut oil that many people attribute to the oils remarkable health benefits.
This is one of the properties that make coconut oil healthy.
Some people even swear that applying coconut oil to toenail fungus kills those little buggers.
In small amounts, it’s not all that harmful.
However, when it grows out of control it causes all sorts of issues that can actually be incredibly harmful to your health.
- Chronic sinus and allergy symptoms
- Brain fog
- White coat on tongue
- Weak immune system
- And much more
Candida masquerades as so many other things that it can be really hard to diagnose (so can B12 deficiency).
One of the primary causes of this is the broad spectrum use of antibiotics.
Antibiotics do a lot of good, but they also do harm.
Let’s say you get strep throat. You will be given an antibiotic to kill the bacteria but not only will that antibiotic kill the bad bacteria it will also kill good bacteria.
This opens the door for the candida fungus to grow because much of the competition has been destroyed.
Combine this with the typical western diet which is high in refined carbs and sugars (the favorite food source of candida) and they thrive within the human body.
One of the most effective ways to treat candida overgrowth is with the simple consumption of coconut oil.
In fact, research has shown that consumption of coconut oil is extremely effective at killing candida in all of its forms.
Quoting from that research:
Coconut oil should be used in the treatment of fungal infections in view of emerging drug-resistant Candida species.
You can’t really get a more blunt recommendation than that.
There are many other benefits associated with the consumption of coconut oil that can be directly attributed to its large lauric acid content.
Some research indicates it can also effectively kill herpes virus and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Coconut Oil Delivers Ketones
One of the major things to take note of if you are wondering is coconut oil healthy are these things called ketones.
The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are easily converted into ketones in the human body.
As we discussed earlier, the typical long chain fatty acids found in most other fats (animal fats, vegetable fats) cannot be directly used for energy.
They undergo a long process of digestion.
However, the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil are sent directly to your liver where they are converted into ketones and sent directly into the blood for energy.
That means when you eat coconut oil those MCFA’s are almost immediately available for fuel within your cells. They are being used for fuel while LCFA’s are still being broken down.
It is very similar to the way that a quick absorbing carb is used.
I like to think of coconut oil as a fat that acts like a carb.
There is a difference, though.
When you consume carbs they are broken down into glucose. Glucose requires insulin to be used for energy. So when you consume carbs your body will secrete insulin.
The glucose that is not used will then generally be converted to body fat.
Ketones do not require insulin.
This is one of the amazing properties that can make coconut oil healthy for many people – especially with insulin issues.
Ketones simply absorb into your cells and are used as energy.
Like glucose, they can also pass through the blood-brain barrier.
Research has shown that your brain actually produces its own insulin to ensure that the glucose can be used for fuel.
It just goes to show how important energy for the brain is.
If the brain cannot get fuel there is are going to be major issues.
One area that this has immense benefits is in neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimers and Parkinsons. One of the characteristics of these diseases is that there is the presence of brain cells that are no longer able to accept glucose for energy.
This is caused because the brain begins to produce less insulin.
Basically, the brain begins to starve in these people with neurodegenerative diseases.
Carbs become basically more and more useless as the diseases progress because the brain is not producing insulin.
This is why Alzheimer’s is often referred to as type 3 diabetes.
Remember that ketones do not require insulin.
In other words, ketones can actually help the brain thrive despite the lowered production of insulin.
Due to the immense concentration of MCFA in coconut oil, eating it can cause the production of a lot of ketones and this has been shown to be extremely effective in the diets of many people with these degenerative diseases.
Is coconut oil healthy?
Bluntly, the body of evidence supporting its health benefits is pretty damn overwhelming.
It is one of the fats I use regularly to meet my daily fat requirements.
No, I don’t think it’s a magic pill that going to be immediately noticeable for many people.
However, it can certainly enhance your health.