• Coconut oil and its benefits

    Is coconut oil good or bad for you?

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    The coconut oil became very popular all over the world in the last years. Today you can see a jar of it on shelves of every big supermarket. Everyone is talking about it, but to many of us it’s not clear – is it good or bad for us?

    The coconut oil is used in the beauty industry – in moisturisers, body butters and soap. Due to its chemical structure, is readily absorbed by the skin. In the food industry it is used mainly for frying. It is a common flavor in many South Asian curries. In the Philippines, Vanuatu, Samoa, and several other tropical island countries they use coconut oil as an alternative fuel source to run automobiles, trucks, and buses, and to power generators.

    Here we will take a look at advantages and disadvantages of the coconut oil in the food and beauty industries.

    Coconut oil in Food

    Many health organizations advise against the consumption of coconut oil due to its high levels of saturated fat. Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. Coconut oil contains a large proportion of lauric acid, a saturated fat that raises total blood cholesterol levels by increasing both the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. On Figure 1 below you can see the differences in the fatty acid composition in solid fats and oils. The coconut oil has highest percentage of saturated fat content – about 90% . Too much saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy and it increases the risk of heart disease, due to the higher “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.

    coconut-fatty-acid-compositionSource: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf

    Coconut oil in Beauty

    Benefits for Hair
    As a hair treatment, coconut oil is extremely beneficial, as it reduces the protein loss and helps the re-growth process of damaged hair.

    Researchers from Mumbai, India compared the effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. The results show that when used in hair, the coconut oil is most beneficial as it reduces the protein loss.

    Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft.

    Another research from TRI/Princeton, USA adds, that the coconut oil, which is a better penetrant than mineral oil, may provide better protection from damage by hygral fatigue.

    Benefits for Skin
    Indisputably the coconut oil is also very beneficial for our skin. It is used as massage oil, for preventing dryness and flaking of skin, it delays the appearance of wrinkles, helps in treating various skin problems like psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, acne and others. But does it provide us with more advantages than other fats and oils when used as moisturizer for our skin?

    The answer of this question comes from Makati Medical Center, Philippines – where they compared the moisturizing benefits between virgin coconut oil and mineral oil. The research was conducted on 34 patients with mild to moderate dry skin (xerosis). They were randomized to apply either coconut oil or mineral oil on their legs twice a day for 2 weeks. The conclusion was that coconut oil and mineral oil have comparable effects. According to the researchers – coconut oil is as effective and safe as mineral oil when used as a moisturizer.

    Coconut oil is a great natural replacement of expensive cosmetic products for skin and hair. It is easily absorbed by our skin and hair. There are different types of coconut oil and if you decide to try it as a beauty treatment or to include it in your diet, then go for the (Extra)Virgin variant.

    History of Coconut oil

    The first uses of coconut oil, relating to the mind, body and spirit were documented by Ayurvedic medicine in Sanskrit from 1500 BC. Early European explorers, including Captain Cook, wrote affectionately about the beauty of communities across the Pacific using coconut oil as an integral part of their daily lives.

    After WWII coconut oil was sold as “margarine” in England and as “coconut butter” in the USA. In 1954 in the USA – the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the National Heart Savers Association started campaigns against tropical oils, funded by Nebraska millionaire and consumer crusader, Phil Sokolof.

    In 1988 on national newspapers started to appear full-page advertisements with headlines like “The Poisoning of America!”. These attacks were so successful, that the reputation of coconut oil as a “healthy food” was destroyed very fast. It began to be considered as harmful for the human body due to its high saturated fat content until the 2000s, when people began to question the claims of this propaganda.

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