The Coconut palm – the long standing symbol for a relaxed beach vacation, is actually one of the most extraordinary trees on the planet. In the Philippines, the coconut tree is known as the “Tree of Life”
In older traditional medicine around the world, coconut has been used to treat a wide variety of health problems like:
- Sore throat
In more recent times, neurological and cardiac diseases have been added to this list including: epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Motor Neurone Disease, stroke, narcolepsy, brain trauma and brain cancer.
In some parts of the world, patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are currently being treated with coconut oil and are achieving far better results than the medications currently approved for these conditions.
Cardiovascular disease was rare at the beginning of the 20th century and has skyrocketed along with other devastating diseases, such as diabetes and obesity since mass produced hydrogenated vegetable oils containing trans-fats were introduced into our diets and replaced these other natural fats like coconut oil.
Our diet has changed drastically from what it was before the 1950’s, when our parents and grandparents used lard and coconut oil to cook so sadly the incidence of cardiovascular and other serious diseases are now becoming more and more common among people in other areas of the world who have changed over from their indigenous foods to the new “Western” diet. It is very likely that these diseases are becoming more prevalent due to our current diet.
Traditional diets included coconut in its many forms to:
- Keep you healthy and slim
- Support your immune system
- Promote heart health
- Give you instant energy
- Support healthy thyroid function
- Help keep skin youthful, smooth and healthy looking
- Increase cell regeneration
- Promote anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial care
- Improve insulin secretion
- Protect your body from disease, incl Alzheimers etc.
But isn’t coconut oil bad for you?
Widespread misconception is that coconut oil is bad for you because it is said to raise blood cholesterol and cause heart disease.
The only ‘proof’ is one study, 4 decades old, which used copha which is bad hydrogenated coconut oil. We all grew up using copha for chocolate crackles.
Copha is hydrogenated coconut oil. It alters the chemical structure of the oil and creates harmful trans-fatty acids. It is now known that the process of hydrogenation creates ‘trans-fatty acids’, toxic entities that enter cell membranes, block utilization of essential fatty acids and impede cell function.
Copha can also cause a rise in blood cholesterol but these substances are not present in natural organic cold pressed coconut oil. Organic coconut oil lowers cholesterol.
(Try using organic coconut oil instead of copha in your ‘White Christmas’ this year!)
Hydrogenation is not caused by heating coconut oil during cooking. Hydrogenation is an industrial process where hydrogen is introduced into an oil to artificially saturate it so that it will be solid at room temperature, as is copha.
It is perfectly safe to heat coconut oil before cooking.
Other benefits of coconut oil include:
- Increases metabolism
- Prevents weight gain
- Strengthens immune system
- Improves skin
- Keeps the heart healthy
- Anti-microbial properties
RESEARCH into BENEFITS of COCONUT OIL
Some people with neuro-degenerative illnesses have been found to benefit by adding consistent amounts of coconut oil to their diets. While the central nervous system uses glucose for fuel, the neurons exhibit insulin resistance in people with Alzheimer’s , Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, neurological and neuro-degenerative diseases.
The brain and central nervous system slowly starve to death. Ketone bodies, however, provide an alternate fuel source. The liver directly converts medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil into ketone bodies. Ketones not only provide a high quality source of energy for the brain but trigger the activation of special proteins that function in brain cell maintenance, repair and growth, thus providing a therapeutic effect on the brain. The consumption of coconut oil can increase blood ketone levels to therapeutic levels that can successfully treat all of these conditions.
Studies show that medium chain fatty acids can effectively mitigate the effects of Alzheimer’s and a dietary supplement designed for this purpose was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2009 for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Coconut oil is comprised of short and medium -chain fatty acids (6-12 carbons) such as lauric acid and capric acid.
These fatty acids (alone and together) can disrupt the cell membranes of some potentially pathogenic gram-positive bacteria and fungi such as streptococci A and B, clostridia, staphylococci and candida (thrush) giving coconut oil significant anti-microbial activity.
Fats and oils are composed of molecules called fatty acids. Three fatty acids joined together form a triglyceride molecule. Some fatty acids are smaller than others and medium-chain fatty acids are smaller than long-chain fatty acids. Likewise medium-chain triglycerides are smaller than long-chain triglycerides. The size of these molecules is very important because our bodies process and metabolise each fat differently depending on its size.
Nearly all of the fats and oil in our diet are composed of long-chain fatty acids, whether they’re unsaturated or saturated. There are only a few dietary sources of medium-chain fatty acids, the primary source being coconut oil. That’s why coconut oil is different from other oils and it is the secret to many of its healing properties.
With medium-chain fatty triglycerides in coconut oil the process is different. They are quickly digested, so pancreatic enzymes are not needed. By the time they enter the intestinal tract they are completely broken down into fatty acids. Because of this, they are absorbed immediately into the portal vein and sent directly to the liver. In the liver they are used as a source of fuel to produce energy.
Therefore, coconut oil bypasses the lipoprotein state and doesn’t circulate in the bloodstream to the degree that other fats do. Consequently, coconut oil does not supply the fat that collects in fat cells or the fat that collects in artery walls.
Coconut oil produces energy not body fat and not arterial plaque. Coconut oil does not raise cholesterol levels but is quickly metabolised into energy. It is high in lauric acid.
Once mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut oil is good short chain fats.
Coconut oil has no cholesterol and no dangerous trans-fats as found in other oils and margarines. Coconut fats are processed directly in the liver without putting strain on the digestive system and are highly recommended for those who have difficulty digesting fats.
Most vegetable oils are composed of long chain fatty acids which are typically stored as fat, while medium chain fatty acids are quickly burned up for energy. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of medium chain fatty acids increasing metabolic rates and leads to weight loss.
Coconut oil is very stable even at high temperatures but it is best not to cook beyond the smoke point of coconut oil as this turns it yellow so should be discarded. Use coconut oil anywhere you would normally use butter.eg. spreading on bread, toast, crumpets, making cakes and biscuits, in mashed potatoes, gravy, white sauce, in stews, curries. Coconut oil can be mixed into hot cereal (eg. Oatmeal), soups, sauces, salad dressings and smoothies. Coconut oil can also be used by putting it on savoury potatoes, pasta, rice, stuffed eggs etc. Grated or dessicated coconut can be added to cereal, yoghurt, salads or used to make macaroons, cakes, lamingtons, custards, puddings. Coconut oil is an excellent oil to use whenever high temperatures are needed such as in the frypan or stir fry. Why not try it soon?
Thank you to Tessa Jupp RN from OSWA (Orthomolecular Support WA Nutritional and Environmental Medicine) for this article.