Coconut Oil – Pros and Cons
is an edible vegetable oil taken from coconuts (Cocos
), more specifically their endosperm or
meat which is usually dried and turned into copra first to facilitate
the expelling process. Because of its high saturated fat
content many health organizations say coconut oil should be avoided but
the argument doesn't go much deeper than that. Earlier
made coconut oil appear dangerous have been found wanting and there are
a number of other studies that show possible beneficial effects such as
antibacterial and antiviral properties and rapid absorption and burning
off of energy provided by it.
Something one must remember with coconut oil is that it does not
the essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid.
Essential fatty acids are termed such because they are not produced by
the body but must be supplied by the diet so one should have an
alternative source for them. Many previous studies that
showed bad results from taking coconut oil can be criticized for
inducing an essential fatty acid deficiency. Other studies produced
skewed results by using hydrogenated coconut oil (hydrogenation creates
unhealthy trans fats).
Coconut oil may be high in saturated fat but the main fatty acid in
question in coconut oil is lauric acid. The understanding of
individual fatty acids is surprisingly poor and lauric acid had for a
long time been considered similar in its effects to other saturated
fatty acids like palmitic and myristic acid. However, this view is
changing. A relatively recent meta-analysis (Mensink,
Zock, Kester, and Katan, 2003
) showed lauric acid did raise
total cholesterol, but it did so by disproportionately raising HDL
"good" cholesterol—the most of any fatty acid saturated or
unsaturated—resulting in a better (lower) total-to-HDL cholesterol
On the flip side many of those advocating coconut oil advocate virgin
coconut oil which, contrary to many claims made on the internet, has a
low smoke point and is unsuitable for frying at high heat.
While it is a very stable oil at lower temperatures and does
go rancid easily—popcorn cooked in coconut oil has been said to keep
for over a year—claims about its stability go out the window once it
reaches its smoke point at around 140
degrees centigrade or thereabouts and, like any cooking oil that
reaches its smoke point, starts breaking down and releasing potentially
dangerous aldehydes. Refined coconut oil on the
other hand has a smoke point of around 180 degrees
centigrade. A refined bleached deodorized (but not
hydrogenated) coconut oil may be better if one is planning on frying
- Clark, Melissa. (March 1, 2011). Once
a Villain, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World. The
New York Times.
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of the World Conference on Lauric Oils: Sources, Processing, and
Applications. The American Oil Chemists Society.
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Truth About Coconut Oil – The Drugstore in a Bottle.
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W. Kuzawa, and Linda S. Adair. (2011). Coconut
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Coconuts. Food Product Design.
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Oil. MSN Health & Fitness.
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and Jimaima Schultz. (2003). Coconut
– Its role in health. Secretariat of the Pacific
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the Doctor: Coconut Oil. Harvard Health Letter.