First things first, it’s important to know that not all coconut oil is created equal. The coconut oil we were previously told to avoid was a highly processed partially hydrogenated version of the oil used in junk food and other processed foods in the ’80s and ’90s, which contained trans fats and other dangerous compounds.
Among vegetable oils, coconut oil is one of the richest in saturated fat – about 86-87% of all its fatty acids are saturated. Given the latest advice to replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat it would appear that coconut oil is the last vegetable oil a credible nutritionist would recommend. Wouldn’t all that saturated fat just raise blood cholesterol and increase heart disease risk?(i)
The hullabaloo comes from the fact that in the 1990s, most coconut oils on the market were partially hydrogenated – a process that adds hydrogen to oil to create a solid state at room temperature. The downside is that this process increases the trans-fats and cholesterol in the oil. Trans-fats are bad! Hydrogenated fats are bad! Cholesterol is bad! In the 1990s, research was just starting to discover this, and the highly-processed, 92% saturated-fat coconut oil partially responsible for it was everywhere! It was in candy, cookies, snacks, breads; just about any processed food you can think of!(ii)
According to the National Library of Medicine, clinical studies have found that medium chain saturated fats can actually aid in weight loss and a decrease in fat mass. Additionally, medium chain saturated fats are more easily assimilated, digested and converted to energy. And some organizations claim to have discovered a link between coconut oil and a treatment for Alzheimers disease.
What coconut oil does do
Modestly increases HDL cholesterol and decreases abdominal fat in overweight women whose diets were supplemented with coconut oil compared to women who consumed soybean oil.
Makes a safe, all-natural moisturizer for clinically dry skin. Some people are allergic to coconut oil, so test a small area of skin before lathering it all over your face or body.
Coconut oil fans counterbalance that by bringing up its lauric acid levels, which apparently both boost “good” HDL cholesterol and help to fight infection.
Reduces bacterial colonization in patients with dermatitis. The lauric acid found in coconut oil is a natural antifungal & antimicrobial. (iii)