Is coconut oil good to eat?
Posted on December 7th, 2012

Dr Hector Perera London

Over the years, fat has become a dirty word. Its meaning has become synonymous with weight gain because the ‘fat’ we eat in foods is the same word we use to describe someone that is overweight. Though eating fat can lead to excessive weight gain, it’s not the fat that’s to blame, it’s excess calories that you should point the finger at.

Whenever you eat more calories than you burn, your body will store that extra energy as fat for later use. Whether or not you eat too much fat, protein or carbohydrates, the result will be the same; fat storage. Eating fat does not always make you fat.

Some of the words we use in everyday life come from chemistry for example fats, lipids, acids, alcohol and esters. When a trihydric alcohol, glycerol and a fatty acid are reacted together it gives a fat. The word lipids mean all types of fats, regardless of whether they are liquids or solids. On the other hand fats can be broken down into glycerol and fatty acids. Even GCSE students are familiar with an alcohol called ethanol and an acid called ethanoic acid or vinegar. The ethanol is an alcohol that has an OH group that reacts with the acidic hydrogen of the ethanoic acid to form an ester. Similarly glycerol is an alcohol but it has three OH groups on three carbon atoms that means a molecule of glycerol is capable of reacting with three acidic hydrogen atoms of 3 molecules of carboxylic acids. A molecule of fat is formed when a molecule of glycerol is reacted with 3 molecules of carboxylic acids. That means a molecules of fat has two parts, one comes from glycerol and the other from carboxylic acids. They are better known as fatty acids because a molecule of fat has a part comes from these carboxylic acids. GCSE students are quite familiar with esters because an alcohol and an acid react to form a sweet smelling substance called an ester. At homes when we make, “sinhala achcharu” the sweet smelling substance is due to an ester so the word ester is not a strange word. Also when we spray colognes and scents or in nail varnishes again this sweet smelling substance is due to some kind of esters. We come across so many chemical compounds in the daily life but ignore to find out what they are.

Oils – Any fat which exists in liquid form at room temperature. Oils are also any substances that do not mix with water and have a greasy feeling.

Well we have heard that some fats are better than the others. Mainly there are three types of fats, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

As I mentioned before a molecule of glycerol has three OH groups that are capable of reacting with three H atoms of fatty acids. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to lower the blood cholesterol whereas trans fatty acids or trans fats are potentially harmful for the health. Some baked products such as biscuits, cakes and buns are made out of trans fats such as margarine but still majority of people never stop eating these foods. We just eat too many fried things, cheese, margarine and butter toasts etc not knowing how the body is going to react to these different kinds of fats and oils. Different types of fats react differently inside the body.

Saturated fats (found mostly in animal products such as chicken, beef, mutton and pork products increase blood cholesterol, which is a risk factor in coronary heart disease. Again we need to remember to limit the quantity of these foods we eat. Mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to lower blood cholesterol.

Fatty acids that have double bonds are known as unsaturated. Fatty acids without C=C double bonds are known as saturated. They differ in length as well.

Length of free fatty acid chains.

Fatty acid chains differ by length, often categorized as short to very long. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are fatty acids with aliphatic tails of fewer than six carbon (i.e. butyric acid).

Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) are fatty acids with aliphatic tails of 6″”…”12 carbons, which can form medium-chain triglycerides. Long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) are fatty acids with aliphatic tails 13 to 21carbons. Very long chain fatty acids (VLCFA) are fatty acids with aliphatic tails longer than 22 carbons.

As mentioned before, unsaturated fatty acids have one or more C=C double bonds between carbon atoms. Pairs of carbon atoms connected by double bonds can be saturated by adding hydrogen atoms to them, converting the double bonds to single bonds. Therefore, the double bonds are called unsaturated. These terms and words are quite familiar with the present day GCSE students when they study hydrocarbons so it’s not a big deal. I tried my best to keep the explanations as simple as possible.

Although coconuts contain 90 percent saturated fats, populations in which they are a dietary staple have a low incidence of cardiovascular disease. Medical research supports the idea that not all saturated fats are the same; the fats contained in plants do not increase cholesterol levels in the same way or rate as fat obtained elsewhere. According to the Advanced Health and Life Extension website, this is because two-thirds of coconut oil consists of medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs, which contain smaller molecules of fat, and therefore are more soluble.

Coconut oil is a mixture of three types of fatty acids, Lauric, Capric and Capryllic acid.

Lauric Acid

Nearly half of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid. Brian Shilhavy, a Certified Nutritional Counsellor writing for the Naturo Doc website, calls lauric acid a key component to health. This fatty acid is beneficial because the body transforms it into monolaurin, an antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used to combat viruses. The only other substantial source of lauric acid is human breast milk, with which it shares similar nutriceutical advantages, such as protecting against the common cold.

Capric Acid

About 7 percent of the fatty acid in coconut oil is capric acid. Capric acid, or decanoic acid, [ten carbons in the chain] is one of several very similar fatty acids found in small quantities in animal fats, dairy products and tropical oils such as coconut. When transformed by the body to monocaprin, it is a growth-inhibiting substance in certain viral and bacterial infections. A study conducted by the Faculty of Biotechnology, University of Wroclaw, Poland tested the effectiveness of capric acid in the treatment of viral and bacterial infections and demonstrated that it was beneficial in inhibiting candidiasis which is an yeast infection results from an overgrowth of yeast (a type of fungus) anywhere in the body. If any part of the body is itchy then you are advised to seek medical attention, it could be due to candidiassis. Caprylic Acid also known as octanoic acid, [eight carbons in the chain] it is widely recognized for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. Although it is frequently cited as a natural cure for chronic and recurrent yeast-related infections such as candida, the Living Without Drugs website notes that some medical doctors argue that there is no significant clinical evidence to support this assertion. Natural health practitioners, however, continue to endorse the use of caprylic acid for such issues as salmonella, ringworm and gastroenteritis.

Tampa is a city in the U.S. state of Florida. An estimated 5.4 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to increase exponentially as baby boomer generation enters their golden years. People with Alzheimer’s experience difficulties communicating, learning, thinking and reasoning, problems severe enough to have an impact on an individual’s work, social activities and family life. But for some people, coconut oil has proven to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and may have even prevented it. One of those people is Steve Newport, whose Alzheimer’s has slowed considerably. Some of his symptoms even reversed, thanks to the unlikely treatment prescribed by his wife, Dr. Mary Newport, a physician who runs a neonatology ward at a Tampa, Fla, hospital.

A team of biochemists, led by Professor Kieran Clarke at England’s Oxford University, have developed a ketone ester that packs a punch ten times greater than coconut oil.

Coconut Oil Myths. So until a high potency ketone ester is available to the general public, coconut oil is still a good ketone source. Just make sure it’s pure, in other words, non-hydrogenated. Don’t forget hydrogenation removes C=C bonds in the fatty acid. Avoid any hydrogenated oil, including coconut oil, because hydrogenated oils are the same thing as dangerous trans fats. Check the list of ingredients for the word, “hydrogenated.”

Dr. Beverly Teter is a lipid biochemist researcher at the University of Maryland and an expert in the area of dietary fat. She said that a few years ago, coconut oil was criticized for raising cholesterol. But scientists have since learned there are two kinds of cholesterol — LDL, the bad kind, and HDL, which is very good for you. HDL, the good cholesterol, is the kind that coconut oil raises. LDL means LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL means high density lipoproteins) LDL cholesterol is the bad boy of the two. LDL collects in the walls of blood vessels, causing the blockages of atherosclerosis. Higher LDL levels put you at greater risk for a heart attack from a sudden blood clot in an artery narrowed by atherosclerosis. Coronary atherosclerosis is a medical condition in which a person’s arteries become clogged with cholesterol, calcium, and cellular waste. As material builds up on the inner lining of arterial blood vessels, it tends to harden and constrict blood flow. An individual with coronary atherosclerosis is at a very high risk of developing severe and even fatal complications, including coronary artery disease, angina, heart attacks, and strokes.

Back to food

When you eat any tasty food you, naturally you are tempted to eat more and more there by without your knowledge too much of sugar, salt and fat enters the digestive system.

Those days we need to wait until the “sinhala awrudu” season to eat certain sweets such as “keum, kokis” but now there are shops selling these sweets all year round. You need to eat some fat in your diet but not too much.

Fat protects your organs, keeps you warm and helps your body absorb and move nutrients around. It also helps hormone production. However, some fats are better than others and having too much of any type is not a good idea. In Sri Lanka they use coconut, gingerly oil and sun flower seeds oil for cooking but coconut oil is one of the favourites for frying. There is a misconception not to eat coconut oil but there are some scientific backings to say, it’s not too bad but we must not misuse or eat too many types of food made out of any kind of fat. Too difficult to resist not eating fried king fish or dry fish, papa dams, “seeni sambol”, fried aubergines, cutlets, patties, then the list of sweet meat made out of coconut oil and milk. The list is too long to mention for which they use coconut oil.

Some people are afraid to eat coconut oil because they think it’s bad for your heart. But it’s actually very healthy now there are research evidences and medical evidences to prove how coconut oil does a number of wonderful things. Whatever it is we need to limit the intake of any kind of food for health point of view, need a balanced diet. Any comments please [email protected]

 

2 Responses to “Is coconut oil good to eat?”

  1. LankaLover Says:

    At least one sensible and well articulated article after many..!

  2. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    COCONUT OIL
    Help you lose weight or maintain healthy weight,

    Reduce your risk of heart disease,

    Lower your LDL cholesterol,

    Improve conditions in those with diabetes and chronic fatique,

    Provide anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal agents,

    Increase metabolism and promote healthy thyroid function,

    Boost your energy,

    Rejuvenate your skin and prevent wrinkles

    Most of the studies involving coconut oil were done with partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which researchers used because they needed to raise the cholesterol levels of their rabbits in order to collect certain data, Virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, is a different thing in terms of a health risk perspective. Partial hydrogenation creates dreaded trans fats. It also destroys many of the good essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other positive components present in virgin coconut oil. Not all saturated fats are created equal. Different types of saturated fats behave differently. The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid increases levels of good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, and bad LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, in the blood. Lauric acid is a wonder substance with possible antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral properties that could also, in theory, combat H.I.V., clear up acne and speed up the metabolism.

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