September 2, 2006 7:24:24 pm
Sesame, coconut, desi ghee, mustard and other traditional fats have made way for refined oils. Treasured for centuries for their health benefits, these fats have faded into oblivion by the invasion of so-called scientific breakthroughs.
It is true that coconut oil is dominated by saturated fat (the kind of fat that solidifies at room temperature). But whether this fat is detrimental to health is a different issue. Ancel Key is largely responsible for starting the ‘anti-saturated fat’ movement. Between 1953 to 1957, Keys made a series of statements regarding the atherogenicity (artery clogging ability) of saturated fats.
But ‘animal’ saturated and ‘vegetable’ saturated fats differ. All fatty acids in saturated fats do not cause disease. The studies done on coconut oil with respect to its cholesterol raising/disease causing potential, were done on ‘hydrogenated coconut oil’, chemically produced, which causes formation of harmful ‘trans fats’, raising blood cholesterol. In fact, later studies on coconut oil, which was not hydrogenated and fed physiologically with other fats or adequately supplemented with linoleic acid— an essential fat, proved that coconut oil is neutral in terms of atherogenicity.
Epidemiological and experimental data regarding coconut-eating groups note that dietary coconut oil does not lead to high serum cholesterol or to high coronary artery disease mortality. A study conducted in 2004 at the University of Kerala by Nevin K G and Rajmohan T demonstrated the potential of virgin coconut oil to lower lipid levels in serum tissues and LDL oxidation by physiological oxidants—polyphenols present in the oil.
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Use of coconut oil along with other healthy fats provides nourishment to all cells and supports metabolism. In addition, coconut oil triggers a powerful mechanism of satiation, which holds the key to permanent weight loss, as it has a good ‘thermogenic effect’.
Coconut oil also has a suggestive role for HIV, herpes and cytomegalo virus in the initial formation of plaques and reclogging of arteries after angioplasty. What is interesting is that herpes and cytomgalo viruses are both inhibited by the main MCFA (Medium Chain Fatty Acid), Antimicrobial lipid Monolaurin, which is not formed in the body, unless there is a source of Lauric Acid in the diet. It is also found in mother’s milk. Monolaurin helps you defend against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens, thus strengthening the immune system. Hence, it would be important to investigate the practical aspects and the potential benefits of coconut oil as an adjunct nutritional support regimen, for HIV infected individuals or immunity compromised individuals. It is also the richest source of Lauric Acid. Lim Sylianco has reviewed 50 years of literature, showing anti-carcinogenic effects of dietary coconut oil. It also has an anti-tumour effect.
It is always better to go for virgin coconut oil, which is produced locally using traditional, low-tech processes. Most commercial coconut oil is refined, bleached and
deodorized (RBD) at temperatures over 200 F or treated with solvents. Refining and bleaching deplete mechanically produced oil Vitamin E and other nutrients.
However, virgin coconut oil is extracted at lower temperature (upto 170 F), preserving most of its nutrition. Meanwhile, it is clear that coconut oil is not such a ‘villain’ as it has been portrayed. At worst it is neutral with respect to atherogenicity of fats and is likely to be beneficial for prevention. The health importance of coconut oil and coconut products in human nutrition needs to be acknowledged.
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