Coconut oil has been revered for many years as a component of a healthy diet. In fact, ancient documentation suggests travelers discovered a nut in the 5th century used for medicinal purposes, and it was believed to be a coconut. Today, coconut oil is used for various aspects of health including improving oral health, killing parasites and acting as a natural barrier for UV rays. However, not everyone is able to use coconut oil due to its side effects, and it might not be as healthy as once speculated.
Coconut Oil and Oral Health
Coconut oil naturally has antimicrobial properties. Oil pulling is a technique that consists of a person swishing oil around in his or her mouth. It’s said to remove the bacteria lurking underneath the gum line. The lauric acid in the oil is said to kill the pathogens in the mouth and improve oral health.
Coconut Oil and Brain Function
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, also known as MCTs. When your body digests them, the liver creates ketones that the brain uses for energy. Ketones give the brain energy without needing glucose. The glucose requires insulin to convert it to usable energy. When a person has Alzheimer’s, he or she begins to lose the ability to create the insulin necessary to break down glucose. Ingesting the ketones from the coconut oil allows someone with Alzheimer’s to use an alternative energy source that fixes brain function.
Coconut Oil and Arthritis
Arthritis is a common problem that affects an estimated 54.4 million Americans each year, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research indicates individuals who have arthritis may benefit from taking a coconut oil regimen. Coconut oil reduces inflammation. It also has analgesic properties.
Coconut Oil and Cancer Prevention
The National Cancer Institute estimates in 2016 there were 1,685,210 new cases of cancer diagnosed. Coconut oil might be able to prevent some cases and has been shown to benefit in the fight against cancer. One reason it’s beneficial for cancer prevention is because of the ketones produced during digestion. Tumors require glucose, but ketones produce energy without the use of glucose. It’s been suggested that eating a diet high in ketones benefits those recovering from cancer. Another way coconut oil is used for cancer treatment and prevention is because it consists of MCFs. The MCFs kill bacteria and specifically have been known to kill the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which has been linked to an increased risk of developing stomach cancer.
Dangers of Coconut Oil on Heart Health
You may have heard of the heart healthy properties of coconut oil due to the saturated fats in it. Saturated fats are considered to be a heart healthy fat. They help to height your good cholesterol levels, known as your high-density lipoproteins (HDL). These particular fats reduce your low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are known to increase your risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious cardiovascular issues. The HDLs also assist the body in reusing the LDLs by the liver, which also plays a role in lowering your negative cholesterol levels.
However, too much of anything has a negative effect. If you’re consuming too much coconut oil, you’ll end up raising your LDLs. These lipoproteins flow through your bloodstream, attach to the arterial walls and may eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke because they can block your circulation. You’re also at a greater risk of developing heart disease when you have an excessive amount of “bad” fats in your system.
Research isn’t conclusive as to whether the saturated fats are actually healthy for you, either. The latest research suggests it doesn’t have nearly as high of an impact on your heart health as you may have been led to believe. Some research indicates it doesn’t have any positive effect on your heart health while other research shows it has very little effect. It does, however, have an impact on your LDL cholesterol.
Another aspect of why coconut oil might not be as good for you as originally suggested is because some coconut oil products that enter the market are highly processed. They don’t contain high levels of saturated fats. Oftentimes, they also consist of a high amount of trans fats, which, when consumed in excess, is harmful to your heart and the rest of your cardiovascular system. The refined coconut oil has a tendency to cause a rapid increase in your LDL cholesterol.
How to Improve Health
If you’re looking to improve your heart health, especially if you already have hypertension or another cardiovascular issue, you shouldn’t rely on coconut oil or other saturated fats. You should lower your body mass index through diet and exercise. A diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables will reduce your weight and improve your heart health.
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