The Internet is rife with unproven claims about coconut oil. It has become so popular that some pharmacies have even begun stocking coconut oil in their vitamin and supplement aisles. No doubt coconut oil has many uses and benefits, but how can you possibly know which claims are true and why? Start by learning what coconut oil is and how it may help you.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of coconuts — the thick, white interior lining of a coconut. It is a solid when it?s cooler than 76 degree Fahrenheit. It?s similar in texture to vegetable shortening. At warmer temperatures, it becomes an oily liquid.
Which Type of Coconut Oil Do You Want?
Labels on coconut oil include the terms ?organic,? ?virgin,? and ?extra-virgin.? Organic oils are extracted by mechanical pressing of the meat after it has been heat-dried. Virgin coconut oil is not processed in any way, such as bleaching or deodorizing. Refined oils are processed so they can withstand higher temperatures. Some of these refined oils are hydrogenated to make them withstand even higher temps, but the process creates synthetic trans fats (the kind you don?t want).
Choose virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil to enjoy its benefits. Few claims have been scientifically proven in large scale studies. Sometimes uses for coconut oil are a matter of trying it to see if you get results.
Boost Your Brain Function
Coconut oil contains fats called medium chain triglycerides (MCT). The triglycerides we consume most often are long chain triglycerides (LCT), which are not good for your health. MCTs are readily processed into ketone bodies, which replace glucose. When the brains of older adults lose some of their ability to use glucose as fuel, the ketone bodies from MCTs likely improve cognitive function. One study showed immediate improvement among Alzheimer?s patients who took a single dose of MCT.
Help with Symptoms of Epilepsy
Even drug-resistant epilepsy may be helped by what is known as a ?ketogenic diet.? A few studies have shown improvement in seizure control when a patient follows a ketogenic diet. Because coconut oil contains MCTs, it may be an integral part of a ketogenic diet. It?s important to note that ?MCT oil,? though sometimes processed from coconut oil, is a different product. Most studies focus on the effects of MCT oil itself.
Lower your Cholesterol
Coconut oil is about 60 percent saturated fats, which usually increase ?bad? cholesterol levels. However, it?s believed that coconut oil also increases ?good? cholesterol. The saturated fat in coconut oil responsible is called lauric acid.
Burn More Calories
One study showed that increasing MCT intake increased energy expenditure over 24 hours. This suggests that MCT-containing coconut oil may help increase your energy expended and thus burn more calories.
Get Healthy Hair and Scalp
Use coconut oil in the shower instead of conditioner and let the fatty acids work their softening magic on your locks. It may also soothe dry scalp conditions and help eliminate fungal infections of the scalp.
Just about any place you use lotion, you can use coconut oil. Swap it for eye cream, moisturizers, and lotions. Use it to remove eye makeup, soothe cuticles, and as a beachy-smelling massage oil.
It?s wise to understand that many of the health claims about coconut oil you may see on TV or read online aren?t necessarily founded in proven science. Before you choose to use coconut oil as a supplement or add it to your diet, check with your doctor to be sure it?s the right choice for you.