Mysterious Health Food: Coconut Oil? A recent article in news.com.au not only classified it as a mysterious health food but according to Australia’s leading consumer organisation Choice has dubbed coconut oil as “not all that it’s cracked up to be”.
Lined up as evidence by Choice is:
- Coconut oil is high in saturated fat
- Causes LDL to rise (bad cholesterol)
- Doesn’t stack up against other plant-based oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, soya etc etc
- Expensive – coconut oil is twice the price of olive oil
- Western diets are high in saturated fats to start with therefore don’t add more to it.
You can read the full article here: Five Mysterious Health Foods
In all fairness, coconut oil has not been well represented in this article at all. There is 1 fact about coconut oil that puts it in a league of its own – MCFAs (Medium Chain Fatty Acids). Because of the MCFAs, coconut oil is digested differently, absorbed differently and used differently in our bodies. This is the 1 fact that makes coconut oil, unlike other saturated fats. So for argument sake here are responses in favour of coconut oil.
Is coconut oil high in saturated fat? True or False
True however unlike other saturated fats, such as butter, coconut oil is made up of MCFAs (medium chain fatty acids) instead of LCFAs (long chain fatty acids). This is the No 1 fact to remember about coconut oil, because of the MCFAs, coconut oil is digested differently than other saturated fats.
[pull_quote_center]The vast majority of the fats in our diet, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from a plant or an animal, are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs). Soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, olive oil, lard, and chicken fat, as well as most all other fats and oils in our diet, are composed entirely of LCFAs. Some 98 to 100 percent of the fat you eat each day consists of LCFAs, unless, however, you eat a lot of coconut or coconut oil.
Coconut oil is unique; it is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). It is the MCFAs in coconut oil that make it different from other oils and which give it its remarkable nutritional and medical properties. [/pull_quote_center]
Dr Bruce Fife.. Coconut Cures Ch 13 page 29
The reason why coconut oil will not cause weight gain, increase heart disease or contribute to the hardening of the arteries is all to do with how it is digested.
Our bodies metabolise fatty acids differently depending on their size. MCFAs are smaller than LCFAs and therefore digest much more easily as well as having a great solubility in water. LCFAs require pancreatic digestive enzymes and bile to be produced in order for them to be digested, MCFAs do not. Because of this, coconut oil provides a quick and easy source of nutrition without taxing the enzyme systems of the body.
Here’s how Dr Bruce Fife describes how fats are digested:
[pull_quote_center]When you eat foods containing long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs), they are passed through your stomach and released into your intestinal tract. Almost all of the digestion of LCFAs takes place in the intestine. Digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the gallbladder are necessary for fat digestion. As LCFAs are digested, the bonds holding the individual fatty acids together are broken. Individual fatty acids are then absorbed into the intestinal wall. Here they are packaged into little bundles of fat and protein called lipoproteins (chylomicrons). These lipoproteins are then funnelled into the bloodstream where they circulate throughout the body. As they circulate, small particles of fat are released from the lipoproteins in the bloodstream. This is the source of the fat that collects in our fat cells and the source of the fat that collects in and clogs artery walls.
When MCFAs are eaten, the process is different. MCFAs also travel through the stomach into the intestinal tract, but because they digest so easily they are completely broken down into individual fatty acids by the time they leave the stomach. Therefore, they do not require pancreatic digestive enzymes or bile for digestion. As they enter the intestinal tract they are immediately absorbed into the portal vein and sent directly to the liver..(Kiyasu, G.Y., et al. Journal of Biological Chemistry 1952; 199; 415). In the liver they are used as a source of fuel to produce energy. Therefore, MCFAs by pass the lipoprotein stage in the intestinal wall and in the liver. They do not circulate in the bloodstream to the degree that other fats do. Consequently, they do not get packed away inside fat cells or clog artery walls. They are used to produce energy, not body fat and arterial plaque. (Greenberger, N.J and Skillman, T.G. N Engl Journal Medicine 1969; 280;1045), (Geliebter, A. Am Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1983; 37;104), (Baba, A. Am Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1982; 35;678) [/pull_quote_center]
Excerpt from Coconut Cures – Ch 3 page 32
Coconut oil has more dietary advantages than disadvantages.
In simple terms, based on a daily dose of 3-6 tablespoons of coconut oil, will not cause weight gain or clogging of artery walls, because of the way it’s digested.
As far as cost goes – when comparing olive oil to coconut oil – yes coconut oil is more expensive but if you weigh up the versatility of coconut oil it works out to be very affordable. Coconut oil can replace your skin care, hair care, cooking oils, cold pressed oils and in some cases cleaning products.
If you can’t imagine taking coconut oil orally than read this article 15 Ways to Use Coconut Oil that doesn’t involve Swallowing it!
How about you? Do you use or cook with coconut oil? Send me a comment or start a discussion below.