WHAT IS COCONUT OIL?
Coconut oil is a healthy, naturally saturated oil and one of the most desirable of the natural fats
to consume, especially in preference to unnatural and harmful partially hydrogenated or trans
fats. Coconut oil has been consumed for thousands of years, including being used as a medicinal
COMPONENTS OF COCONUT OIL
A healthy diet contains mixtures of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Human
breast milk contains about 45 to 50 % saturated fat, about 35% unsaturated and 15-20%
polyunsaturated. Lauric acid and capric acid comprise about 20% of total saturated fatty acids
found in breast milk. The high content of lauric acid in breast milk protects infants from invading
viruses and bacteria and supports the immune system.
Saturated fat is needed by the body for proper cell membrane structure and function and for use
as energy for the heart, muscles, and other organs. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, containing
about 50% lauric acid (C12). Other components of coconut oil include capric acid (C12),
caprylic acid (C8), tocopherols and tocotrienols. Tocopherols and the related tocotrienols are
potent anti-oxidants that can help maintain healthy cell structure and function, as well as protect
the oil from oxidation which may cause rancidity.
Coconut oil contains about 65% saturated medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) along with a
small amount of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. MCTs contain fatty acids with a chain
length of 6 to 12 carbon atoms. MCTs are a source of readily-available energy, since they are
metabolized more efficiently and more easily than longer chain triglycerides. MCTs have been
used successively in malnourished individuals and in individuals suffering from malabsorption
syndromes and in certain diseases of the lymphatic and intestinal system which may cause
symptoms of gastrointestinal dysfunction, edema, and diarrhoea.
BENEFITS OF COCONUT OIL
MCTs are directly utilized by the body and transported directly to the liver. Thus, they are not
transported or deposited to tissues such as adipose (fat) tissue. Evidence suggests that increased
consumption of MCTs increases burning of calories, increases satiety, helps decrease the amount
of fat stored in adipose tissue and may help control body weight. Most Western or North
American diets do not contain appreciable amounts of MCTs and thus supplementation may be
The two main fatty acids found in coconut oil – lauric and capric acid -are MCTs with special
properties. They exhibit anti-microbial activity and help combat pathogenic or disease-causing
viruses, bacteria and other micro-organisms. Monolaurin is an anti-infective and anti-viral agent
which the body makes from lauric acid. Coconut oil is the easiest way to consume lauric acid.
Lauric acid has been studied for its anti-viral effect against many different viruses including the
virus causing acquired immune deficiency disease (AIDS). The chain length of the fatty acid has
been shown to be critical, as those fatty acids which are shorter or longer in length than lauric
acid are less effective anti-viral agents, or may exhibit no anti-viral activity. The anti-viral
activity of lauric acid is dose-dependent, with increasing effects seen with higher levels of
Coconut oil has been found to aid in the management of inflammatory disease, by increasing
production of the anti-inflammatory compound, interleukin-10, and decreasing inflammatory
mediators such as interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor. Chronic inflammation has become
widespread in our society and contributes to the development of many chronic diseases as well
In summary, the health benefits of coconut oil may be achievable by increasing the daily dietary
consumption of this healthy oil. This naturally-occurring healthy oil undergoes minimal
processing without the use of harmful solvents and contains beneficial MCTs including lauric
and capric acid. These important fatty acids provide energy and aid in metabolic processes
including body fat regulation and weight control and exhibit significant anti-infective activity.
As well, MCTs have been found to decrease inflammation. Increasing the consumption of
coconut oil in our daily diet can help combat the excessive intake of unhealthy and harmful trans
fatty acids and, along with other healthy oils, such as those containing essential fatty acids, can
normalize the body’s balance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat to maintain
good health and achieve well-being.