Some coconut oil products are referred to as "virgin" coconut oil. Unlike olive oil, there is no industry standard for the meaning of "virgin" coconut oil. The term has come to mean that the oil is generally unprocessed. For example, virgin coconut oil usually has not been bleached, deodorized, or refined.
The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, cholesterol level maintenance, weight loss, boosted immune system, proper digestion and regulated metabolism, according to organicfacts.net.
. It also provides relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, and cancer, while helping to improve dental quality and bone strength. These benefits of oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and their respective properties, such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antibacterial and soothing qualities, according to organicfacts.net.
In a randomized clinical trial, 40 participants were given either 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or 2 tablespoons of soybean oil once a day for 12 weeks. The coconut oil group did not experience a significant change in their cholesterol numbers but were more likely to have a higher HDL level.
Diets high in MCTs have been shown to improve glucose tolerance and reduce body fat accumulation when compared to diets high in LCTs. MCFAs have also been shown to preserve insulin action in, and insulin resistance in rat studies. Coconut oil may also improve insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetics.
The presence of medium chain triglycerides and fatty acids helps in preventing liver diseases because those substances are easily converted into energy when they reach the liver, thus reducing the work load of the liver and also preventing accumulation of fat.
Coconut oil helps in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases. It also helps to dissolve kidney stones.
As mentioned earlier, coconut oil improves the ability of our body to absorb important minerals. These include calcium and magnesium which are necessary for the development of bones. Thus, coconut oil is very useful to women who are prone to osteoporosis after middle age.
Coconut oil is an excellent massage oil for the skin as well. It acts as an effective moisturizer on all types of skin, including dry skin. The benefit of coconut oil on the skin is comparable to that of mineral oil. Fortunately, unlike mineral oil, there is no chance of having any adverse side effects on the skin from the application of coconut oil. Coconut oil therefore is a safe solution for preventing dryness and flaking of skin. It also delays the appearance of wrinkles and sagging of skin which normally accompany aging. Coconut oil also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections.
Coconut oil is also good for the immune system. It strengthens the immune system because it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Internal functions of coconut oil occur primarily due to it being used as cooking oil. Coconut oil helps to improve the digestive system and thus prevents various stomach and digestion-related problems including Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The saturated fats present in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties and help in dealing with various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion. Coconut oil also helps in the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Potential health risks of consuming coconut oil
While there is credible evidence suggesting that the link between saturated fats and heart disease may not be as strong as we had previously thought, the USDA Dietary Guidelines continue to suggest avoiding saturated fats, including tropical oils like coconut.
Some health professionals argue that the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil have a positive effect on HDL and total cholesterol levels while others claim that MCTs have just of a negative effect in increases LDL levels, negating any positive heart healthy benefits.
Other critics of coconut oil insist that the studies being performed are for short periods of time, the number of study participants is too small, and many of the results stated have not been significant enough to prove any benefit to coconut oil consumption. Research is more sound and established in backing the health benefits of unsaturated fatty acids.