Coconut oil may increase your cholesterol level, clog your arteries and then elevate your risk of heart disease and stroke, and make you gain weight... all because of one thing – its high saturated fat content. Right?
WRONG! Actually, coconut oil provides health benefits instead, and more than anyone can imagine.
Let's go to the South Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa and the Central America where coconut and palm oils are plentiful.
Look at those people who live there. For many generations, they add significant amount of coconut oil to their traditional coconut-based diets but suffer very much lower rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and other health problems than those in North America and Europe who don't eat coconut-based food at all. Why?
Simple. Because their coconut-based diets are healthy.
If that's the case, then why are there so many voices lambasting the health benefits of coconut oil, even today?
The Ugly Truth
I remember vividly that moment... I lost my yummy coconut snack (the crunchy, puffy coconut balls) overnight. Can't remember the brand but I would buy a large can every couple of days because sometimes I could finish off one large can in a day. That was in the late 1980s.
As usual, I gobbled up a can one day and then went to the supermarket hoping to get a replacement to satisfy my palate for coconut-flavored snack. To my surprise, I couldn't even find a single can on the usual shelf I bought from. I scavenge at other shelves thinking that the shelf stockers could have re-arranged the goods.
So much stock I just saw the other day and they simply got off the shelves in just a day or two, I couldn't believe!
Well, no luck. I was thinking perhaps they were suddenly selling like hot cakes and thought I could return the following day to get once they replenish the stock. Day after day I got disappointed and I even tried other grocery stores and supermarkets at other places. After a month or two, I finally gave up. I didn't know what exactly happened but I knew something was not right.
Then somewhere in 2006, my girlfriend, Laura (now, my wife) handed me a book called The Coconut Oil Miracle. I flipped the first few pages and suddenly "Tng", a light bulb went off in my head. At last, everything became clear. I finally understood why I couldn't find my favorite coconut-based snack 20 years back.
So, it was all because of a well-orchestrated conspiracy led by the American Soybean Association (ASA). You know what they did?
Although import of consumable tropical oils at that time took up only a minority share of the America's dietary oil market, if the soybean industries can wipe out as many competitors as possible to gain more profits, why not?
So, they set out to create a negative publicity about tropical oils, capitalizing on the public's fear of the artery-clogging saturated fat and its close connection to heart disease.
Coconut oil gets the hardest hit as it carries the most amount (80–90 %) of saturated fat in it.
Soon after, many authoritative but misguided health groups, especially the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) jumped on the media bandwagon to support the twisted claim, blindly followed by a Nebraska multi-millionaire, Phil Sokolof (founder of the National Heart Savers Association) and many food manufacturers.
With the combined effort of these powerful (but moronic) groups and people, the wicked propaganda became so viciously "loud" that it muted the weak voices from the tropical oil industries and medical researchers and professionals who were familiar with the extensive benefits of especially coconut oil.
So, in the end, the public of course, believed in the rumors as the misinformation clouded the America's sky.
For the "safety" of the public, since then, the tropical oils and all coconut-based food were forced to "vanish" and you could only see food that were non coconut-based. This not only took place in America, soon the world got to know about the "oil from hell". My homeland, Singapore, was quick to pick up the propaganda and so that's how I lost my deliciously crunchy, puffy coconut balls.
Fortunately, in the past 10+ years of the relentless effort of those who have benefited greatly from the consumption and use of coconut oil, the truth about coconut oil has gradually surfaced and come to light.
Let's look at more ways coconut oil is being used.
Coconut Oil as Natural Health Remedy
For thousands of years, both Ayurvedic and Indian folkloric medicine use coconut oil as a traditional remedy for almost all illnesses.
Gradually, modern medical science discovers that coconut oil actually benefits our health by protecting us against heart disease (yes, contrary to what we've been led to believe), stroke, diabetes, cancers, liver and kidney diseases, osteoporosis, dental decay and skin infections.
It also relieves symptoms associated with illnesses like pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis (difficulty in breathing and absorbing nutrients), chronic inflammation, prostate enlargement, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis.
You can also use coconut oil to ease your constipation too if you can't move bowels regularly.
This tropical oil continues to "show off" its incredible health benefits and astonish doctors with its powerful ability to kill viruses (e.g. influenza – aka flu, hepatitis C, herpes, measles), bacteria (e.g. pneumonia, urinary tract infection, Propionibacterium acnes), fungi and yeast (e.g. Candida, ringworm, thrush), which are otherwise resistant to drugs and antibiotics.
Yes, as unbelievable as it sounds, right now some doctors are including coconut oil in their treatments against the world's deadliest incurable terminator – HIV/AIDS. The super antimicrobials in coconut oil can rip the viruses apart and kill them on the spot.
Coconut Oil Fights HIV/AIDS
According to a first clinical study on the effectiveness of coconut oil against HIV conducted in 2000 at San Lazaro hospital in the Philippines by Dr. Cornrado Dayrit, M.D., emeritus professor of pharmacology at the University of the Philippines and former president of the National Academy of Science and Technology in the Philippines, 9 out of 14 HIV patients after six months of treatment using the antimicrobial acids found only in coconut oil had a decreased viral load (the number of viruses in the blood).
If the study doesn't sound convincing enough, meet Tony V., a Filipino AIDS sufferer who was about to die of AIDS years ago suddenly saw a ray of hope after trying coconut oil on his terminal condition.
Tony contracted the disease in Saudi Arabia where he worked as a waiter and florist in the late 1990s. He then returned to Philippines in 2002 and shockingly found that he was infected with HIV.
Day by day as HIV ate at his immune system, other viruses, as well as bacteria, parasites and fungi, seized the opportunity to take hold and further infest his body, leading to secondary infections, which were what actually caused the severe deterioration of Tony's health and put him in hospital by July 2003.
His doctor prescribed for him drug cocktails comprising a mixture of antibiotics, antiviral, antifungal and anti-cancer agents to fight HIV and the secondary infections.
But the drugs failed to stop Tony's condition from aggravating.
His body was soon covered with fungal infections and skin lesions. He was losing weight drastically, and had repeated bouts of vomiting and diarrhea accompanied by fever, chronic fatigue, oral candidiasis, and various other infections including chronic pneumonia with a persistent cough. Skin infections covered his head, face, and body. He was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS.
Tony's doctor then discharged him and gave him the drugs in the hope of slowing down his raging infections so he can get his affairs in order before he dies. As Tony was too sick to work and his savings had almost dried up, he could not afford the expensive medications anymore (AIDS drugs can easily cost over $1,250 US a month).
"I felt like a candle that was starting to flicker and die." he said in despair.
Unable to afford the drugs, he turned to the Department of Health for help that then referred him to Dr. Conrado Dayrit, the author of the first clinical study on the healing effects of coconut oil on HIV-infected patients as mentioned earlier.
Tony was skeptical when Dr. Dayrit told him about how coconut oil can treat AIDS. So, instead of applying coconut oil to the sores and infections on his skin 3 times a day and consume 6 tablespoons daily as instructed, he experimented first by applying a little oil every day to the small wound on his foot that refused to heal to see if what Dr. Dayrit says holds true.
To his amazement, that small wound healed completely after only 3 days. Encouraged by the results, he began the coconut oil regimen in earnest.
And as more remarkable improvement shown on his skin infections, low-grade fever, symptoms of pneumonia, candidiasis, chronic fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting, Tony began to swear by the healing power of coconut oil and started to apply the oil from head to toe 3 times a day, including the amount of consumption as instructed.
When he returned to the hospital for his periodic blood tests, the doctors were all astounded at his recovery.
"They were all excited and couldn't understand what was happening", says Tony. "They asked me what I was taking. I told them I was using coconut oil."
They couldn't believe that something as simple as coconut oil was killing the virus and infections better than their drugs.
Tony's condition continued to improve by leaps and bounds until one day, which was 8 months plus after his coconut oil regimen, he decided to stand before an audience for the first time to share his story and encourage other AIDS victims to use coconut oil.
"HIV virus has not been curable until now," he said. "The antiretrovirals cannot control the infection, which is why a lot of my friends died. Doctors cannot predict how long I will live. When I was diagnosed, my doctors told me I wouldn't live another three months. Well, here I am now. I'm still standing. Maybe I have a mission to share my experience with all whom I meet."
"People like me who have HIV/AIDS are scared. But you don't need to be afraid now. Years ago tuberculosis was a worldwide epidemic, but eventually they found the cure. For HIV, maybe virgin coconut oil is the solution the world has been looking for."
Though coconut oil fights and even kills HIV effectively, you can never be free from HIV attack completely. You can at best, keep their viral load well under control with daily consumption and topical application of coconut oil. But that's good enough since you can at least lead a normal life and do not have to suffer the agonizing symptoms of AIDS anymore.
Gentle Reminder: Prevention is always better than cure. So, please stay loyal to your partner and refrain from any potentially dangerous sexual activity especially one-night stand. You never know who you're sleeping with.
In 1996, an AIDS patient Chris Dafoe of Cloverdale, Indiana, having a HIV viral load of 600,000 copies – an indication of rampant HIV infection, after eating cooked coconut for breakfast every day, had his viral load dropped all the way down to undetectable levels. Instead of dying soon he suddenly regained his life. Incredible!
In another case, a man consumed a glass of coconut milk daily for 4 weeks. His viral load for HIV dropped from 30,000 to 7,000 copies.
You might wonder, if coconut oil or coconut-based food is so effective against HIV/AIDS, then why isn't it being widely used as a treatment today?
It's the money issue again.
Because coconut oil is relatively low cost and readily available worldwide, pharmaceutical companies won't be able to protect their coconut oil-based drugs with a patent. Hence they can't charge exorbitantly and reap enormous profits like they do on other drugs. That's why they don't see the rewards in funding the research for the use of coconut oil in fighting HIV.
Perhaps you're still skeptical about coconut oil's health benefits.
In that case, come... follow me. Let me show you the underlying mechanisms that make coconut oil almost so invincible. But please bear with me since it's gonna be somewhat technical. I'll do my best to make them as humanly simple to understand as possible.
Why is Coconut Oil So Good for You?
Some people thought that coconut oil is rich in vitamin E and a good source of omega-3, which are what make coconut oil good for our health.
Not true. Take a close look at coconut oil's nutritional facts below and you'll soon know. (Note: SCFA – Short-chain fatty acid, MCFA – Medium-chain fatty acid, LCFA – Long-chain fatty acid)
I got the above data from the USDA National Nutrient Database SR28 May 2016 Update. Did you notice the content of trans fat (0.004 g per tablespoon) in coconut oil? Do not be alarmed as these trans fats are commonly found in partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil.
I don't understand why USDA uses partially-hydrogenated coconut oil as the reference. But you don't have to worry about that since you won't be using that type of coconut oil for sure.
If you follow me through to the end of this article, you'll learn how to identify the best quality coconut oil that carries zero trans fat for great health and flawless skin. So, just ignore the trans fat data and focus on what coconut oil can truly benefit you.
One more thing to bring to your attention. Have you tried summing up the saturated fats with unsaturated fats only to realize that they don't add up to the Total Fat value? This is because the Total Fat value may include some non-fatty acid materials such as glycerol, phosphate, sugar or sterol that are not shown in the database. So, no need to scratch your head for that.
See? Even if coconut oil does hold vitamin E and omega-3 (other brands might not even have omega-3 in it), their amounts are too tiny to effect any health benefits on you.
It is actually the 3 properties of fatty acids (saturated, medium-chain and antimicrobial) in coconut oil that benefit you. How? Let's run through them one by one.
How Coconut Oil Benefits You #1: Saturated Fatty Acid
All oils and fats are essentially made up of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Saturated fatty acid consists of a chain of carbon atoms fully attached with hydrogen atoms.
That little gray box is the carboxyl group (–COOH). It's part of the fatty acid and serves as a "connector" to the glycerol backbone to form triglyceride. (Doesn't matter if you don't understand.)
Structure of monounsaturated fatty acid is similar to that of saturated fatty acid except for one missing pair of hydrogen atoms. The missing hydrogen pair will induce the 2 neighboring carbon atoms to bond with each other via a double bond (C=C).
Take note of this: A double bond that consists of one pi (π) bond and one sigma (σ) bond is supposed to provide stronger connection between 2 atoms than a single sigma (σ) bond. But because pi bond is weaker and more unstable (than sigma bond), it causes the double bond connection to become highly susceptible to chemical reaction.
In other words, the double bonding between carbon atoms indicates its vulnerability to external attack and will readily react with free radicals that interact with it.
Structure of polyunsaturated fatty acid is similar to that of monounsaturated fatty acid except that it lacks 2 or more pairs of hydrogen atoms in the chain. 'Poly' means many. Since there are 2 or more double bondings, this type of fat is very unstable and thus, highly susceptible to oxidation.
What you see from above are 18-carbon chain fatty acids. In actual fact, the chain can appear from as short as 2 carbon atoms to as long as 24 or more. The length of the chain can impact your health too, which I will touch on later.
Free Radical and Oxidation
In case you're not familiar with the terms 'free radical' and 'oxidation', let me back up a little bit about the relationship between them.
A stable (hence, harmless) atom or molecule has its electrons perfectly paired on the outer shell. But when it loses an electron on its outer shell due to chemical reaction, air pollution, radiation, viral attack, bacterial infection, or other reasons, the pairing is upset, causing the atom or molecule to become highly reactive and thus aggressive. And this highly reactive atom or molecule is called free radical.
To restore its electron pairing, this barbaric free radical will go around hunting like a robber for an easy target, snatching an electron away from a neighboring molecule that has weak (double) bonding, causing the molecule to disintegrate and separate into two atoms or molecules that have their electron pairing disturbed. These two atoms or molecules in turn become free radicals, and they'll repeat what the first free radical has done to them and attack other molecules nearby, leading to a destructive chain reaction.
(Just like us, when we lack a sense of security or feel a sense of "emptiness", we seek comfort to fill the "emptiness" so as to stabilize our emotions, otherwise we can behave just like a free radical.)
Let's go back to the structure of monounsaturated fatty acid. It has one missing pair of hydrogen atoms (pink box below), right?
As there's a double bonding between 2 carbon atoms, imagine this fatty acid is exposed to air, any free radicals in the form of unstable oxygen atoms can attack and react with that 2 carbon atoms and make the monounsaturated fatty acid become unnaturally saturated.
This chemical reaction between fatty acid and oxygen is called oxidation. Oxidation can also occur when the fatty acid loses its hydrogen atoms to the environment upon heating, rendering the fatty acid even more unsaturated and thus, unstable, and causing the environment to have more free radicals in the form of hydrogen atoms that are highly reactive.
Oxidation changes the entire properties of the fatty acid. That means, if the fatty acid has health benefits, it can easily lose its health benefits or even become health detrimental when oxidation takes place.
In short, free radicals can cause oxidation and oxidation can also result in the formation of free radicals, forming a vicious cycle.
Coconut Oil Contains Mostly Saturated Fatty Acids
Fully (and naturally) filled with hydrogen atoms, saturated fatty acids in coconut oil remain very stable because they allow no space for other unstable atoms or molecules from the environment to fit in.
Even when you expose coconut oil to oxygen, light or heat, it doesn't oxidize easily though it contains about 8 % unsaturated fatty acids because its 80–90 % saturated fatty acids will naturally separate the 8 % unsaturated fatty acids apart, preventing them from oxidative stress, much like elephants surrounding their cubs from lion attack.
Hence, formation of free radicals hardly takes place in coconut oil under normal circumstances and uses.
In contrast, monounsaturated and especially polyunsaturated fatty acids are very prone to oxidation and free-radical formation at the exposure of light, oxygen or even low heat. Which is why food that is cooked with oils that contain predominantly unsaturated fatty acids turns rancid and smells bad easily after you leave them out for a few hours.
But some unsaturated oils may still smell and taste seemingly normal even after oxidation. That does not mean the oils are safe to consume. It depends on the types of oil, its composition and the severity of oxidation (how long and how much the oil has oxidized).
Even when you eat these oils absolutely fresh and raw, their unsaturated fatty acids will either mix quickly with the abundance of oxygen or create more free radicals (by losing hydrogen atoms) in the presence of our body heat and chemical reactions and turn into oxidized fats.
The free radicals that are created will then mercilessly assault your healthy cells, turn them into mutant cells, leading to multiple destructive chain reactions that create more free radicals and cause degenerative damages to your organs and tissues, thus turning your normal bodily functions completely upside down.
Inhaling of smoke particles from burning tobacco incites more free radical activities. For this reason, smokers and second-hand smokers who consume oxidized oil "gain" double risk in health damage.
For that reason, people who consume unsaturated fats via common cooking oils tend to develop cancer and degenerative diseases faster and more easily than those who do not or eat lesser.
But free radicals don't just get inside our body in that manner. Free radicals appear everywhere in the environment. The more polluted the environment is, the more free radicals there are, and the more you will inhale. Not only that, our cells create free radicals as byproducts during chemical reactions too.
Therefore, no way you can completely stop the assault by free radicals. But you can dramatically lift up your resistance to their attacks by eating coconut oil which contains saturated fatty acids galore (80–90 %) acting as antioxidants. And the more you eat, the better protection you'll have against free-radical damage.
That means your chances of developing cancers and degenerative diseases will become much slimmer with regular consumption of coconut oil.
Though saturated fatty acid can act as antioxidant and ward off oxidation of cells, the saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are mostly medium-chain that convert to energy while those in animal fats are all long-chain that our body finds hard to use as energy and so they tend to be stored as body fat.
High body fat level may constrict your blood vessels, causing poor transportation of oxygen and various vital nutrients to your cells, tissues and organs. This can upset your normal bodily functions, thereby increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease, liver disease and many others. Hence, saturated fatty acids from animal fats can harm you.
Coconut Oil Lifts Your Face and Cares for Your Skin
Besides promoting cancers and diseases, do you know that free radicals can also make you look older than you really are (i.e. premature aging) by building "tracks" (wrinkles) on your face, smearing your skin with age spots and loosening your skin tissues to make your skin saggy?
Scary? What can you do to save your soft little skin and beautiful face and stop the renegades from wreaking havoc in your body?
Yes, only antioxidant can stop them.
Do the commercial creams and lotions you're using right now contain antioxidants?
I dare say they don't contain as much as what coconut oil provides. Instead, they compose mainly of water to help moisturize your dry and wrinkled skin. The moisturizing effect can be pretty deceiving as it makes you believe that it works instantaneously to help soften your skin and reduce your wrinkles.
Let me tell you, the effect is at best temporary only. Here's why...
As water from commercial creams or lotions enters your skin, it expands the tissues, flattening out the wrinkles to make your skin look smoother. But this effect stays only for a short while. As soon as the water evaporates or is carried away by the bloodstream, your dry, wrinkled skin returns.
See? That's why you have to keep buying the expensive skin care products and spread all over your face and skin to sustain your skin smoothness.
In contrast, coconut oil softens your skin by penetrating deep into the layers to help heal the broken connective tissues caused by free-radical attack. It also promotes growth of new and healthier cells by removing dead cells on the outer surface of your skin and hence, making your skin smoother, enabling it to reflect light more evenly, creating a healthier, more youthful appearance. The skin shines because light reflects better off evenly textured skin.
I've heard people having blemishes and age spots on their skin amazingly reduced or faded after daily application and consumption of coconut oil.
It all thanks to the rich supply of antioxidants in the tropical oil that comprises the predominant lauric acid, capric acid, caprylic acid and other antioxidative saturated fatty acids.
Which means you can access to an abundant supply of antioxidants cheaply and easily since you can get coconut oil almost everywhere.
No more sign-ups for exorbitant facial and skin treatment packages and purchasing of high-priced skin care products. You save tons of cash!
All you need to do is get organic virgin coconut oil and apply a dab to your skin each time and reapply it as often as necessary. Don't forget to incorporate it into your diet so you can fight free radicals more effectively from the outside as well as from the inside. After 3 months, come back here and check how your skin fares in this Skin Elasticity Test.
Pinch the skin on the back of your right hand with the thumb and forefinger of your left hand and hold it for 5 seconds. Then let go of your fingers and time how long it takes for your right-hand skin to completely flatten back out (don't cheat!).
The shorter it takes your skin to flatten out, the younger the functional (or biological) age of your skin.
For example, let's say you're 30 years old, but it takes 6 seconds for your skin to totally return to its normal look after the 5-sec pinch-and-hold. That means, your skin is functionally older (between 45 and 50 years old) than your actual age. This is a sign of degeneration and loss of function resulted from free-radical destruction.
You can prevent or perhaps even regain the youthfulness and tenderness of your skin by simply eating coconut oil in place of other cooking oils, and use it topically. I can attest to the skin benefits of coconut oil because my skin bounces back in 2 seconds. I'm in my early 40s.
How Coconut Oil Benefits You #2: Medium-Chain Fatty Acid
Unlike most, if not all unsaturated fatty acids that literally comprise long-chain fatty acids, saturated fatty acids essentially compose of short-chain (2-6 carbons), medium-chain (8-12 carbons) and long-chain (14-24 carbons) fatty acids.
As with different degrees of saturation, different lengths (or sizes) of fatty acids can also make or break your health.
Long-Chain Vs Short-Chain and Medium-Chain
To understand how the different sizes of fatty acids, particularly medium-chain fatty acids (in coconut oil), can impact your health, you must first understand how your body digests triglycerides.
A triglyceride is a fat that consists of 3 fatty acids joining together via a glycerol backbone (yellow box) as shown:
A triglyceride can hold 3 different lengths (or sizes) of fatty acids. It can also have 3 fatty acids with different degrees of saturation.
When the triglyceride holds 3 long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs), it's called a long-chain triglyceride (LCT). Similarly, 3 medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) joining together make up a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) and 3 short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) form a short-chain triglyceride (SCT).
3 Different Sizes of Triglyceride
MCT and SCT behave very differently from LCT. How so?
Let's say you consume food cooked with soybean oil, which carries 100 % long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) that compose predominantly of (mono- and poly-) unsaturated fatty acids.
To digest the LCTs in soybean oil, you need fat-digesting enzymes such as lingual lipase (secreted by serous glands in your tongue), gastric lipase (secreted by peptic cells in your stomach) and pancreatic lipase (secreted by pancreas into your small intestine). You need bile as well to help with digesting the long-chain fats in the small intestine.
What these fat-digesting enzymes do is they'll break down LCTs into individual fatty units called monoglycerides, free fatty acids (LCFAs) and/or glycerols (when all 3 LCFAs are freed). For example...
When 2 bonds are broken, LCT splits into 2 free LCFAs and a T-shaped monoglyceride.
But when all 3 bonds are broken, LCT splits into 3 free LCFAs and a glycerol.
Not all LCTs will be completely broken down into free fatty acids and glycerols. Some will become monoglycerides (2 fatty acids pulled off from glycerol leaving only 1 fatty acid attached to it, forming a 'T' molecule), some diglycerides (2 fatty acids attached to 1 glycerol) or even remain undigested as triglycerides, depending on the size of LCTs, amount of digestive enzymes produced, efficiency of digestion and the body's metabolic rate.
Upon digestion, micelles (tiny spheres formed by bile salts) will ferry the long-chain monoglycerides and free fatty acids (LCFAs) along with other substances like cholesterols, phospholipids and fat-soluble vitamins across the chyme (watery mass of partly digested food in your small intestine) to the absorptive (epithelial) cells lining the villi (finger-like projections) on the intestinal wall for absorption.
Once inside the absorptive cells, long-chain monoglycerides and fatty acids are reassembled back into triglycerides and bundled together with cholesterols and phospholipids to form chylomicrons (coated with proteins) and then transport via lymphatic vessels to the bloodstream for delivery of fatty units to tissues throughout your body.
By contrast, fatty units (i.e. monoglycerides and free fatty acids) in MCTs and SCTs follow a completely different path when you consume food containing these smaller triglycerides.
Though MCTs and SCTs are also broken down into their respective monoglycerides and free fatty acids just like LCTs, their digestion may not necessarily require pancreatic lipase and bile to take place. By the time they leave your stomach and enter duodenum (first part of your small intestine into which bile and pancreatic lipase are secreted), most of them would have already been broken down into smaller units by lingual lipase and gastric lipase.
That's why people with difficulty secreting pancreatic enzymes and bile for efficient food digestion and nutrient absorption found ingesting food (like coconut oil) that contains MCTs and SCTs can help them digest food and absorb nutrients better.
Unlike the long-chain fatty units, medium- and short-chain monoglycerides and free fatty acids (MCFAs and SCFAs) can effortlessly move through the chyme to the absorptive cells without the need for micelles, penetrate the cells and enter the blood capillaries in your small intestine that will then transport them directly to your liver for energy production via hepatic portal vein.
The sole reason why LCT and MCT/SCT digest and travel differently is due to their sizes.
Because the monoglycerides and free fatty acids (LCFAs) from LCTs are long and clumsy, they can't move as freely and fast in the chyme as those from MCTs and SCTs, that's why they need micelles to quickly ferry them across to the intestinal wall for absorption.
Not only that, after the long-chain fatty units enter the intestinal absorptive cells, because of their size, they can't diffuse out of the cells as quickly and effortlessly as the medium- and short-chain monoglycerides and free fatty acids. For this reason, they must join back into triglycerides and then combine with cholesterols, phospholipids and proteins to form chylomicrons, which will export them out of the absorptive cells via exocytosis.
Once out of the cells, because chylomicrons (~ 80 nm) are too large to fit in the pores of blood capillaries in your small intestine, they have to go by the lymphatic capillaries (lacteals) that got pores large enough to accommodate the bulky chylomicrons and take them to the bloodstream for distribution of fatty units to every cell of your body.
Up to this point, you might ask, "What have the different paths the fatty units take got to do with my health?"
When LCTs circulate in your bloodstream, they supply fats to fat cells in your tissues and organs and other parts of your body, which means, you can unwittingly gain more body fat than you need since the fat you eat is literally the fat you wear, unless you increase your physical activity level to the point that burns those fats off your fat reserves or even before they get deposited into fat cells.
Do take note that if these fats are unsaturated, they can get oxidized easily and collected in your artery walls when an inflammation takes place, which can raise your risk of heart disease.
On top of that, long-chain fats require pancreatic enzymes and bile to break them down. This increases your digestive load and thus, drains off your energy. In response to the loss of energy, your body will attempt to turn down your metabolism to cut down on the energy loss, which in turn causes fat gain easily.
Medium- and short-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides, on the contrary, are converted to energy and burned as fuel in your liver as soon as they drive up to your liver. This stimulates the metabolism of your liver that in turn, energizes its 400+ functions including protein synthesis, detoxification, deactivation of oil-triggering hormones and production of digestive chemicals etc to help keep your body operating properly.
What you might not know is that not all medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides will go to the liver and be burned off as fuel.
In fact, some amount of medium-chain fatty units especially the 10-carbon capric and 12-carbon lauric acids and their monoglycerides (monocaprins and monolaurins respectively) will be delivered by chylomicrons via lymphatic system to the bloodstream simply because they're relatively longer in the medium-chain group. Hence, they may move or diffuse slightly slower than other medium-chain fatty units inside the absorptive cells that give rise to chances of them getting wrapped into chylomicrons.
Caprylic acid (8 carbons) may have some taking the lymphatic route too. But because it's the shortest (and therefore, swiftest) among the medium-chain group, more of it go by the portal system than by the lymphatic route.
So, does that mean these medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides that travel in the bloodstream will end up as your body fat like the long-chain fatty units?
Nope. This actually benefits your health even more when you also have medium-chain fatty units carried in the bloodstream to every cell of your body besides having portions of their fatty units transported directly to the liver. Why?
Despite they're relatively larger in the medium-chain group, the 10-carbon and 12-carbon fatty units are still considered much smaller than long-chain fatty units.
Long-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides require insulin to enter cells whereas medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides can easily permeate the membranes of cells without the help of insulin.
What's even better is that after getting into the cells, these medium-chain fatty units can effortlessly penetrate both the outer and inner membranes of cellular mitochondria (singular: mitochondrion – below), which are organelles inside cells that convert the fatty units into energy.
Long-chain fatty units, by contrast, require special enzymes called carnitine transferase to help them get through the double membranes into the core of mitochondria for energy production.
That is why diabetics are able to restore their cellular activity (with regular and adequate intake of coconut oil) such as nutrient absorption that in turn helps to improve their energy levels and insulin resistance problem.
What I'm trying to tell you is that, medium-chain fats, whether they're in the form of free fatty acids (MCFAs), monoglycerides or triglycerides (MCTs), whether they go directly to the liver or travel around your body in the bloodstream, DO NOT essentially get deposited as body fat because our body simply prefers to use them as a quick energy source due to their smaller sizes (unless you really consume a heck lot of them that contributes to excess caloric intake).
And they don't contribute to artery-clogging since they're saturated and do not support oxidation and free-radical activity. On top of that, they don't drain your energy and tax on insulin and enzyme reserves like the long-chain fatty units.
In short, medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides strengthen your liver functions, provide immediate energy for cells throughout your body, heal your skin faster when you get a cut and they can even burn fat and help you lose weight since they rev up the metabolism of cells in you.
What about short-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides?
Most, if not all short-chain fatty units, travel in the portal vein and almost none goes to lymphatic vessels. This means that they're exceptionally good energy sources and metabolism-boosters for your liver but they can't provide energy for every cell in your body since they literally travel in one route only.
In view of that, consuming more MCT provides better overall health benefits than SCT since MCT powers up the entire body. That's why Mother Nature creates coconut for us all.
And when we consume the oil from this tropical fruit, we get less than 1 % SCFAs and 50–64 % MCFAs plus about 35 % LCFAs. We need LCFA for energy reserve, organ protection (cushioning) and cell repair. So, such composition is perfect for our health. No other vegetable oils or animal fats can give us that!
How Coconut Oil Benefits You #3: Antimicrobial Fatty Acids
Did you know that all fatty acids (as well as their monoglycerides) in coconut oil, regardless of long-, medium- or short-chain, whether saturated or unsaturated, can protect you against viruses, fungi, bacteria, parasites and other pathogenic microbes?
Triglycerides and diglycerides do not possess antimicrobial properties. Only monoglycerides and free fatty acids do.
Composition and Amount of Fatty Acid in Coconut Oil
|Fatty Acids||Type / Size||Amount|
|Butyric acid||Saturated / Short-chain||0.009 %|
|Caproic acid||Saturated / Short-chain||0.477 %|
|Caprylic acid||Saturated / Medium-chain||6.802 %|
|Capric acid||Saturated / Medium-chain||5.39 %|
|Lauric acid||Saturated / Medium-chain||41.84 %|
|Myristic acid||Saturated / Long-chain||16.653 %|
|Pentadecylic acid||Saturated / Long-chain||0.015 %|
|Palmitic acid||Saturated / Long-chain||8.636 %||Margaric acid||Saturated / Long-chain||0.009 %|
|Stearic acid||Saturated / Long-chain||2.516 %|
|Arachidic acid||Saturated / Long-chain||0.076 %|
|Behenic acid||Saturated / Long-chain||0.019 %|
|Lignoceric acid||Saturated / Long-chain||0.031 %|
|Palmitoleic acid||Unsaturated / Long-chain||0.016 %|
|Oleic acid||Unsaturated / Long-chain||6.253 %|
|Gondoic acid||Unsaturated / Long-chain||0.041 %|
|Linoleic acid||Unsaturated / Long-chain||1.676 %|
|Alpha-linolenic acid||Unsaturated / Long-chain||0.019 %|
Of these fatty acids, medium- and short-chain such as caproic, caprylic, capric and lauric acids (and their monoglycerides) provide the fastest antimicrobial protection because they can go through cell walls on their own with ease to fight and kill pathogens inside cells, unlike long-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides that require insulin to escort them into the cells.
And of these short- and medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides, capric acid and lauric acid in coconut oil exhibit the best antimicrobial properties, why?
Remember I told you earlier that because capric and lauric acids are relatively longer in the medium-chain group, so they travel in both pathways – portal vein and lymphatic system?
As liver is the center of detoxification and nutrient processing for your body, it will have lots of viruses and other pathogens lurking there attacking liver cells. So, short- and medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides that go directly to the liver can help to kill pathogens there besides burning as fuel to stimulate hepatic metabolism. Your liver functions will further be enhanced with more pathogens eliminated. That's great!
But other parts of your body may have billions of cells being invaded by pathogens also, and if you leave them solely to the hands of long-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides such as myristic, palmitic, stearic and so on, it won't be long before the invasion gets out of hand because like I said, the long-chain fatty units require insulin to enter cells in order to fight the pathogens, and if the pathogens multiply faster than the penetration of long-chain fatty units, you're dead meat!
That's why I said it's good that some medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides (like lauric and capric) travel to other parts of your body so they can offer you immediate protection and kill pathogens on the spot before they multiply and thrive within your tissues or cells and cause irreversible damages.
Although lauric acid and its monoglyceride (monolaurin) demonstrate the strongest ability in eradicating a broad range of viruses, fungi and bacteria such as HIV, influenza, Candida, streptococcus and staphylococcus etc, other fatty acids do have stronger effects on various other strains or species of harmful microbes and pathogens where lauric acid and monolaurin have little or no effect upon.
That said, coconut oil provides an almost all-round protection for you with its variety of fatty acids plus their monoglycerides working synergistically to boost your immunity and keep you free of super germs.
Let me cite an experience to prove coconut oil's antimicrobial properties...
We went to Taiwan in July 2014 (Summer) for a relaxing trip. When I was resting in a shelter after a 4-hour bicycle ride under a scorching hot sun, a mosquito flew quietly and attached to my left upper arm sucking my blood up to fill her bottom. By the time I realized her existence and tried to slap it, she flew off and escaped death. I then quickly rubbed coconut oil on the bitten spot and soon after that, I did not see any mosquito bite on it. No redness. No itch. No swell. No nothing. My skin looked perfectly normal the entire day.
See? This is coconut oil's antimicrobial properties in effect.
Best Type of Coconut Oil for Maximum Benefits and Protection
If you want to get the most health benefits out of coconut oil, choose virgin coconut oil.
Some brands labeled coconut oil as "Extra-Virgin" but which in fact is still virgin coconut oil.
Unlike olive oil which comes with 3 essential official grades – Extra-Virgin, Virgin and Pure, coconut oil is basically classified into 2 types only – Virgin and Refined. 'Virgin' in coconut oil is not an official classification. It simply means that the coconut oil is produced through the use of low temperatures (< 120 °F or 49 °C) without chemicals, and retain its most natural form.
I strongly recommend virgin coconut oil because this type of coconut oil is extracted from fresh mature coconut meat using either cold-pressed or centrifuge technique without high heat and chemicals.
When these types of extraction methods are used, coconut oil gets to retain all of its intrinsic phytonutrients that give it a distinctive coconut aroma and flavor and best, its full nutritional values.
But not all people like the natural coconut aroma and flavor of virgin coconut oil like I do. If you happen to be one of those who wants only the health benefits but not the natural coconut odor, you can go for refined coconut oil.
Refined coconut oil, as its name suggests, has gone through a refining process whereby the phytonutrients that give the oil a natural coconut odor are removed. In other words, you're getting somewhat the health benefits without the natural coconut flavor.
But since some high heat (running at 220 °F or 104 °C) is involved in the refining process, the health properties of refined coconut oil won't retain as much as those in the naturally-extracted virgin coconut oil. For this reason, don't expect to gain as much health benefits from refined coconut oil as you would from virgin coconut oil.
Some refined coconut oils may have lauric and few other beneficial acids completely removed. A good example of such refined coconut oil is fractionated coconut oil (aka MCT oil). If you want to gain lots of health benefits, this type of refined coconut oil can never satisfy you.
However though, you're better off eating refined coconut oil than any other vegetable oils or animal fats which are detrimental to your health.
If you ask me to recommend refined coconut oil for consumption, I would still refer you to virgin coconut oil because no other types of coconut oil can match the health benefits that virgin coconut oil brings about. I would suggest that you learn to like the natural coconut fragrance.
Oh, in fact, you can choose the brand that gives off a relatively mild coconut scent. With this type used in cooking, you can hardly notice the presence of the coconut flavor.
But if you really, really want a coconut oil that has no odor at all, then you can try Nutiva refined coconut oil in glass jar. I just started using this recently when I need certain dishes (for example, butternut squash or pumpkin) to retain its natural flavor. Of course, I still use virgin coconut oil most of the times because I miss the coconut-y flavor it bestows on the food.
How to Maximize Virgin Coconut Oil's Health Benefits?
A common mindset that most people have is that because virgin coconut oil costs relatively higher, so in order to cut cost they'll continue to use their typical cheaper unsaturated oils for heavy cooking in everyday life while taking virgin coconut oil as a health supplement, hoping that their petty intake of virgin coconut oil can help them dilute the negative impact unsaturated oils has inflicted on their health.
Even if that paltry quantity of virgin coconut oil does help you dilute some oxidative damages caused by the unsaturated oils you consume, how much nutritional benefits are left in that peanut amount of coconut oil to enhance your health? Think about it.
Supplement is something that you take to support your immune system and bodily functions. For example, calcium. If your food intake fails to feed adequate calcium for your bone needs or your body is unable to absorb adequate calcium from your food intake due to digestive disorder or absorption problem, that's where calcium supplement comes into play.
Some people even treat virgin coconut oil like a Shell V-power gasoline – normal days they'll use low-quality and cheaper gasoline until the engine gets dirty then they pump in Shell V-power gasoline to clean the engine and restore the performance.
Are you going to see your immunity decline and health suffer then you start increasing your virgin coconut oil intake?
Honestly, if you treat virgin coconut oil like a health supplement or a V-power gasoline, you won't benefit much from its health properties because its health properties can easily get offset or undone by the health-detrimental unsaturated oils you consume.
Imagine on one hand you're detoxifying your body with minimal intake of virgin coconut oil but on the other hand you're intoxicating your body with maximum consumption of unhealthy oils, how can your health ever be in its best tip-top condition all the time to readily fight illnesses and diseases? Agree?
Coconut oil is a dietary fat that we need badly, just as we need carbohydrate badly. Fat is one of the 3 macronutrients our body needs for essential functions. It's just that you didn't realize all along that the fat you've been ingesting is bad for you.
Now all you have to do is substitute virgin coconut oil for the usual cooking oil you're using and you now have a good dietary fat in your kitchen that provides tremendous health benefits for you and your family every time you eat.
Don't worry about the cost. When you don't fall sick easily you'll realize that you have a lot more spare cash in your pocket than before. Trust me.
Did you read the nutrition label on the container of unsaturated oil you've bought?
Most, if not all carry a small percentage of trans-fatty acids. The amount may seem trivial or even negligible, but no tiny amount of trans-fatty acid should be taken lightly. As trans-fatty acids are aliens to our body, our body may not really know how to handle it. So instead of purging them all out every time they gain entry, our body might shove some of them into our fat cells, which can make it difficult for us to retrieve the true fat for energy usage.
Trans-fatty acids are carcinogenic too. So, don't let them in easily or your cumulative intake of them can destroy your life completely one day.
How to Store and Use Virgin Coconut Oil to Retain Its Nutritional Benefits?
Do you need to store virgin coconut oil in the fridge after opening?
You don't have to keep it in the fridge since virgin coconut oil is exceptionally stable in itself. However though, don't purposely place it near any heat source especially of high temperature for a long time. It may not turn bad easily but its nutritional benefits will probably degrade over time.
Also, storing it in the fridge will make it so hard that you need to use sharp object to scrape it out for use or spend some minutes to melt it with heat before using.
I use virgin coconut oil in my diet and on my skin every day, so I simply leave it out in liquid form in a cool, dry place like a cupboard. Here's my personal inventory of virgin coconut oil... (well, actually we have some more in our cupboard... we eat a lot, that's why we need to keep enough stock to make sure we never fall short of it.)
Under proper storage and usage, it should stay good for at least 2 years. (I never let mine stay that long. I usually finish 1 jar of 680 ml in 2 weeks or less.)
When surrounding temperature cools below 76 °F (24 °C), like in rainy days or in winter, the oil will turn snowy or cloudy even out of fridge. That's not a sign of rancidity. Scoop it up and dump it on hot frying pan and the cloudy oil will return to its crystal clear liquid state.
Speaking of that, heating or cooking won't destroy much of the super nutrients in virgin coconut oil as long as you keep the temperature well below 350 °F (177 °C), which is the smoke point of virgin coconut oil. Once it starts to smoke, its health properties will change and its health benefits will be compromised.
Hence, the impact of these oxidized unsaturated fats becomes extremely negligible. That's why I keep emphasizing that virgin coconut oil does not lose its health benefits easily.
If you're thinking of taking some virgin coconut oil with you wherever you go so that you can continue to gain its enormous health benefits, it's best to get some portable (preferably glass but not necessarily tinted) containers to hold the oil.
But make sure you wash, clean and dry the container before you transfer the oil over.
Same for using spoon to scoop coconut oil. Make sure it's dry before it touches the oil. If not, you'll see little water bubbles trapping inside the oil and when you pour it onto the hot frying pan, you may get scalded when the steam bubbles burst and pop hot coconut oil everywhere.
Because coconut oil is slightly acidic, it may "attack" the metal a bit when you use a stainless steel spoon for scooping, even the spoon you use has the highest grade of corrosion resistance. But that shouldn't kill you since the oil won't stay on the spoon for long, you would have licked it clean very soon after. If you're particular about that, use porcelain spoon then. It is definitely non-reactive and safest to use.
Another thing I notice is that when moisture accidentally gets in contact with the oil in my small portable bottle, it affects the fragrance and it smells indescribably bland (not the rancid kind of cheesy smell or vomit-like stench unless the moisture stays long enough within the enclosed area for bacteria or mold to grow). I checked with Dr. Bruce Fife (author of The Coconut Oil Miracle) who's a coconut expert and he too couldn't explain such phenomenon.
On one occasion when I simply shake up the mixture of virgin coconut oil and water and gulp it down as an energy drink before exercise, I notice the same kind of smell. I wonder if it could be the reaction between water and the oil's 8 % unsaturated fatty acids at the oil-water interface.
But the thing is, it smells perfectly good when added to any food (cooked or raw) or stirred in beverages like smoothies and juices. So, I really couldn't make any sense out of its "strange" encounter with plain water. Anyway, just keep the container free of moisture to avoid degrading the quality of your coconut oil before using.
How Much Virgin Coconut Oil to Take Per Day?
The recommended dosage of virgin coconut oil to take is 3–4 tablespoons per day. But for me, I take as much as 5 tablespoons (sometimes, 7 particularly when I sense my immunity has dropped) a day by adding the oil into my food and drinks. That's because I'm already seasoned.
If you're brand spanking new to virgin coconut oil and you start taking like 2–3 tablespoons per day, you might feel the burning sensation around your liver area (when MCFAs get burned in the liver) that causes some discomfort in you. You may also get the runs too because virgin coconut oil loosens bowels.
So, don't take too much virgin coconut oil at first. Spread 1 tablespoon over the day for a week or two before you increase to 2 tablespoons and so on.
Simply put, increase your intake gradually and progressively to allow your body ample time to adapt to the positive health effects of virgin coconut oil.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor who runs The Dr. Oz Show, was very much against people consuming coconut oil as food, just because it contains mostly saturated fatty acids.
"Coconut oil is loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat and oozing with calories...", he once said.
But after digging into several case studies about the medium-chain saturated fatty acids in coconut oil, he started to realize its massive benefits on health. He then reversed his stance on coconut oil somewhere in 2011 and began to recommend coconut oil on his show to his audience. He even started taking it regularly since then.
Here, I commend Dr. Oz for his courage to admit his mistake and quickly take a change on his position in light of new information he had never realized until 2011, unlike the many stubborn doctors and health care professionals out there who are still not willing to admit publicly or privately that they've made a mistake and that the dietary advice they have handed out to people over the years was wrong.
I know it's hard to accept a new truth when your mind has been so conditioned to believe in something for so many years. But a fact is a fact. You can't change it. So why not face it instead? All you need is just open up your mind, do a little research and your wisdom will help you discern right from wrong and good from bad.
"The mind is like a parachute – it only works if it's open" ~ Anthony J. D'Angelo