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Coconut Oil : Benefits, Uses, Brands and Side Effects

Coconut Oil : Benefits, Uses, Brands and Side Effects

  • January 4, 2020
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Being one of the few foods that can be classified as a superfood, Coconut Oil has a unique combination of fatty acids which have positive effects on your health. Fat loss, better brain function, skin protection, protection of the hair and dental health are some of the impressive benefits of coconut oil.

Coconut oil is a highly saturated oil that is traditionally made by extracting the oil from raw coconuts or dried coconut kernels. It is solid at room temperature, but when heated it can soften or even melt.

Coconut oil is rich in Medium-Chain Fatty Acids (which make up about 65% of its total composition) which are a form of saturated fat. It’s frequently used in cooking or applied directly to the skin and hair. The fatty acids found in coconut oil include :

  • Lauric acid: 49%
  • Myristic acid: 18%
  • Caprylic acid: 8%
  • Palmitic acid: 8%
  • Capric acid: 7%
  • Oleic acid: 6%
  • Linoleic acid: 2%
  • Stearic acid: 2%

Lauric acid: Lauric acid (a white solid with a slight odor of bay oil) is the main fatty acid in coconut oil and in palm kernel oil, and is believed to have antimicrobial properties. Although slightly irritating to mucous membranes, it has a very low toxicity and so is used in many soaps and shampoos. [Ref]

It is a saturated fat found in many vegetable fats, particularly in coconut and palm kernel oils mostly used as medicine. Lauric acid is used for treating viral infections such as influenza, swine flu, avian flu, common cold, fever blisters, cold sores, and genital herpes caused by Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), genital warts caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and HIV/AIDS.

Lauric acid prevents the transmission of HIV from mothers to children. It is also used for the treatment of bronchitis, gonorrhea, yeast infections, chlamydia, intestinal infections caused by a parasite called Giardia lamblia, and ringworm.

Myristic acid: Myristic acid is a non-toxic fatty acid that is found naturally in some foods, such as palm oil, coconut oil and butter fat. It is a saturated long-chain fatty acid with a 14-carbon backbone.

Myristic acid is used as a cleansing, surfactant and opacifying agent in cosmetics and personal care products. Nutmeg, palm oil, and coconut oil contain relatively high levels of myristic acid.

Caprylic acid: Caprylic acid is a medium-chain fatty acid that is found in palm oil, coconut oil, and the milk of humans and bovines. Caprylic acid is one of the three fatty acids found in coconut oil. It’s a medium-chain fatty acid with potent antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. [Ref]

Caprylic acid is used for the treatment of yeast infections, skin conditions, digestive disorders, antibiotic resistance, and cholesterol.

It is also used for the treatment of epilepsy, tremors, renal failure, and leakage of a body fluid (chyle) into the space between the lungs and chest wall.
NOTE : Caprylic acid can cause some side effects, such as nausea, bloating, and diarrhea.

Palmitic acid: Palmitic acid is a saturated fat naturally found in some animal products like meat and dairy, as well as in palm oil and coconut oil. [Ref]

Palmitic acid can act as an emollient, softening the skin and help retain moisture by forming an occlusive layer. It possesses antioxidant properties which help prevent free radical damage to maintain youthful radiant skin.

Palmitic acid functions as a surfactant, emulsifier, opacifying agent, and emollient in cosmetics and personal care products.

Capric acid: Capric Acid is a saturated medium-chain fatty acid with a 10-carbon backbone found naturally in the coconut oil and palm kernel oil as well as the milk of various mammals. [Ref]

Decanoic acid (a white crystalline solid with a rancid odor, with a melting point of 31.5°C, soluble in most organic solvents and in dilute nitric acid) is used to make esters for perfumes and fruit flavors and as an intermediate for food-grade additives.

Oleic acid: Studies suggest that oleic acid reduces inflammation and may even have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer. Evidences in the last years have showed the effects of oleic acid (OA) in human health and disease. Olive oil, rich in oleic acid, is supposed to present modulatory effects in a wide physiological functions, while some studies also suggest a beneficial effect on cancer, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, besides its ability to facilitate wound healing. [Ref]

Some of the health benefits of Oleic acid include : reduction of cholesterol, improvement of Heart health, lowering of Blood Pressure, prevention of obesity, improvement of insulin sensitivity, improvement of the immune system, assisting in brain function, decreasing the effects of aging, fighting cancer, decreasing pain and improving mood.

Linoleic acid: Linoleic acid is a doubly unsaturated fatty acid, also known as an omega-6 fatty acid, occurring widely in plant glycosides. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid in human nutrition and it is used in the biosynthesis of prostaglandins (via arachidonic acid) and cell membranes. Linoleic acid is found to be associated with isovaleric acidemia, which is an inborn error of metabolism. [Ref]

Static Acid : Stearic Acid is a saturated long-chain fatty acid with an 18-carbon backbone found in various animal and plant fats, and is a major component of cocoa butter and shea butter.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil on Skin

Benefits of Coconut oil range from decreasing levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol to improving brain function in Alzheimer’s patients, and a load of other health benefits.

The health benefits of coconut oil on skin include :

Reduces Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a major component of various types of skin conditions, including psoriasis, contact dermatitis and eczema. Interestingly, coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties.

In a particular study, researchers applied virgin coconut oil to inflamed rat ears. Coconut oil not only has anti-inflammatory effects, but also reduces pain. In addition, coconut oil can reduce inflammation by increasing antioxidant status.

Antioxidants work by stabilizing free radicals in the body and neutralizing reactive atoms which can contribute to inflammation.

An animal study in 2013 fed rats with various types of oils, including coconut, olive and sunflower oils. At the end of the 45 day study, coconut oil increased antioxidant status and largely prevented oxidative stress.

It is important to remember that most of the current research is limited to animal and tube research, so it is difficult to know how these results can be applied to humans.

Based on this study, however, coconut oil shows great potential in its ability to help relieve inflammation when consumed or applied to the skin.

Helps Treat Acne

While some people believe that coconut oil clogs your pores, many studies have shown that coconut oil can help treat acne.

Acne is an inflammatory condition and many drugs are used to treat these conditions by reducing inflammation.

Because coconut oil and its components can help reduce inflammation in the body, coconut oil can also help treat acne.

In addition, the antibacterial properties of the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil can also help reduce acne.

Numerous studies have shown that lauric acid, which makes up nearly half the fatty acids in coconut oil, kills acne bacteria.

In fact, research on tubes and animals shows that lauric acid is more effective than benzoyl peroxide in preventing the growth of bacteria that cause acne.

Besides lauric acid, capric acid has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

A study on animals and tubes from 2014 showed that lauric acid and capric acid were able to relieve inflammation and prevent acne by killing bacteria which causes acne.

For best results, coconut oil must be applied directly to the skin in the area where acne occurs.

Moisturizes Dry Skin

Besides the effects on acne and inflammation, applying coconut oil to your skin can also help keep you moisturized.

A study in patients with mild to moderate dry skin compares the effect of coconut oil with mineral oil, a type of oil made from Petroleum that is often used to treat dry skin.

The study which lasted for 2-weeks found that coconut oil significantly increases skin hydration and is as effective as mineral oil.

Treats Eczema

It has also been proven to help treat eczema, a skin condition characterized by scaly and itchy rashes.

A study comparing the effects of olive oil and coconut oil on 52 adults with eczema found that the use of coconut oil in addition to treating eczema helped reduce dryness.

Another study found similar results, showing that coconut oil reduced the severity of eczema by 68%, making it significantly more effective than mineral oil in treating eczema.

Moisturizing your skin can help maintain a bacterial barrier, promote scarring, and maintain overall skin integrity.

Kills Harmful Microorganisms

Medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties that can help protect against harmful microorganisms.

This is very important for skin health because many types of skin infections, including acne, cellulite, folliculitis and athlete’s foot, are caused by bacteria or fungi.

Applying coconut oil directly to the skin can prevent the growth of these microorganisms.

This is because the content of lauric acid, which forms nearly 50% fatty acids in coconut oil and can fight harmful microorganisms.

One study tested the antibacterial properties of 30 types of fatty acids against 20 different bacterial strains. Lauric acid has been found to be the most effective in inhibiting bacterial growth.

Other tests show that lauric acid can kill Propionibacterium acnes, a type of bacteria that leads to the development of inflammatory acne.

In addition, capric acid is another medium chain fatty acid found in coconut oil, albeit to a lesser extent. Like lauric acid, capric acid has been shown to have strong antimicrobial properties.

A study shows that lauric acid and capric acid effectively kill strains of bacteria.

Another study shows the antifungal effect of capric acid and shows that it can inhibit the growth of certain types of fungi.

Helps in Healing Wound

Some research shows that coconut oil can also help in wound healing.

An animal study looked at how coconut oil applied to the skin affected wound healing in rat.

It found that treating wounds with virgin coconut oil accelerated healing, increased antioxidant status, and increased levels of collagen, an important protein that helps in wound healing.

Other animal studies show that coconut oil in combination with antibiotics applied to the skin is effective in treating burns.

In addition to improving wound healing, its antimicrobial properties can also prevent infection, one of the main risk factors that can complicate the healing process.

Coconut oil is used in cooking but can also be applied to the skin or hair. It’s rich in saturated fat and medium-chain fatty acids, especially lauric acid.

Rachael Link, MS, RD

Benefits of Coconut Oil on Hair

Just as people use Coconut Oil for everything from cooking and cleaning to moisturizing the skin and removing their makeup, others often use it to improve their health and condition of their hair.

Some of the health benefits of coconut oil on the hair include:

Helps You Grow A Longer Hair

Many people want long, shiny and sleek hair. However, daily wear and tear on hair due to style, trimming, weather and contamination can damage it.

This can make growing longer hair more difficult because your hair can become worn and tired with time.

Coconut oil can help you grow a longer hair by:

  • Moisturizing the hair and reducing damage
  • Protecting the hair from loss of protein and damage when wet
  • Protecting it from environmental influences such as wind, sun and smoke.

In order to get the most out of coconut oil, you may need to make it a part of your beauty regime.

Helps Prevent Damages to the Hair

There are several ways you can apply oil to your hair to protect it from damage.

First, applying oil to the hair before washing can help reduce damage that occurs when washing and when wet.

Interestingly, the hair is most vulnerable to damage when wet. This is caused by subtle structural changes that occur when water is absorbed.

When you wet your hair, thick middle skin absorbs water and swells, causing structural changes in the cuticles.

Hair cuticles are actually made up of flat, overlapping pieces that are attached to the roots of your hair and point upwards.

When the skin of your hair absorbs water and expands, these scales are squeezed so they stick. This can damage wet hair more easily, especially when brushing or styling hair.

Applying oil to the hair before washing can reduce the amount of water absorbed by the hair and the rate at which the cuticle scales attach. This makes it less prone to damage when wet.

Second, applying oil to the hair after washing makes it softer and smoother. This reduces friction caused by styling the hair and reduces the chance that the hair will thicken and break.

Flea prevention

A small study found that coconut oil in combination with anise in a spray is 40% more effective than chemical permethrin in treating head lice.

Sun protection

UV filters can protect your hair from sun damage. Some studies show that coconut oil has a sun protection factor 8. Therefore, rubbing it on your hair can help.

Dandruff treatment

Dandruff can be caused by the growth of fungus or yeast on the scalp. Although there are no studies specifically examining coconut oil, it has antimicrobial properties and can be useful in treating dandruff.

Preventing Hair Loss

Excessive treatment can damage the hair, which in extreme circumstances can cause hair loss. Coconut oil can help keep your hair in good condition and prevent it.

Coconut oil is generally considered safe for use on skin and hair. However, if you use too much, oil can accumulate in your hair and scalp. This can make your hair greasy and dull, especially if you have very fine hair.

How to Use coconut oil to improve the Health of Your hair

Here are some ways to use coconut oil to improve the health of your hair.

  • Like a Conditioner : Shampoo your hair as usual and then comb coconut oil through the hair, from the wound to the tip.
  • As Detangler After Washing : After washing and conditioning the hair, rub a little coconut oil through the hair to protect it while washing.
  • As a Hair Mask : Rub coconut oil into your hair and leave it for several hours (or even overnight) before washing it.
  • As a Hair Protector Before Washing : Rub coconut oil into the hair before washing.
  • To Treat the Scalp : Massage a little coconut oil into the scalp before going to sleep. Leave overnight and wash with shampoo in the morning.

Coconut Oil Uses

Coconut Oil has many health benefits, has a soft taste and is widely available. It is also a very versatile oil with many uses that you may not know.

Here are some top coconut oil uses :

Increases Metabolism

Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT). This is a fatty acid that is quickly absorbed and can increase the number of calories burned.

Controlled studies show that MCT – at least temporarily – can significantly increase your metabolism.

One study found that 15 to 30 grams of MCT increased the number of calories burned by an average of 120 in 24 hours.

Improves Dental Health

Coconut oil can be a powerful weapon against bacteria, including Streptococcus mutans, an oral bacterium that causes plaque, tooth decay, and gum disease.

In one study, these bacteria could be reduced just as effectively by swishing with coconut oil for 10 minutes as by rinsing it with an antiseptic mouthwash.

In another study, daily swishing with coconut oil significantly reduced inflammation and plaque in adolescents with inflammation of the gums.

Improves Brain Function

MCT in coconut oil is broken down by your Liver and converted into ketones, which can serve as an alternative energy source for your brain.

Several studies have shown that MCT has impressive benefits in brain disorders, including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.

Some researchers recommend the use of coconut oil as a source of MCT to increase ketone production.

Boosts Bone Health

Animal studies show that the antioxidants in coconut oil can protect bone health by neutralizing free radicals that can damage bone cells.

A six-week study in mice showed that the group that received 8% of their calories from coconut oil had a significantly higher bone volume and improved bone structure.

Top Best Coconut Oil Brands

These valuable oils are nutritionally safe and therefore suitable for all purposes. Like most natural products, you want to avoid chemically processed and hydrated oils. Below are the top best coconut oil brands:

Viva Naturals Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Viva Naturals is one of the most trusted brands in the natural market. This special option is one of the highest value coconut oils and offers consumers great flexibility in one pack.

Viva Naturals Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil can be used not only for traditional cooking methods that have become popular with consumers, but also for skin care and health for current needs.

In addition, organic coconut oil from Viva Naturals is squeezed with organic coconut to produce rich aroma and taste.

Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is made from coconuts grown in Southeast Asia which are cold pressed during harvest. This oil has BPA-free packaging, is halal-certified and has the flavor and aroma of mild and sweet coconut. If you want to cook on high heat, Nutiva also makes very clean oil and steam.

Dr. Bronner’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Dr. Bronner’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil has just been pressed with the whole kernel, which means that the brown membrane separating the core from the shell is inserted into the final product. This membrane has a higher content of unsaturated fatty acids, which ultimately leads to a stronger coconut oil with a rich and spicy taste.

Many people use Dr. Bronner in baking, hair and beauty regime and even as a natural supplement for pets to improve their skin and hair.

These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease as these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Side Effects of Coconut Oil

Some critics of coconut oil as a health and wellness tool recommend that consumers slow down their roll before consuming too much coconut oil.

For starters, most medical research in humans is not done, so all conclusions must be drawn with a grain of salt. In addition, coconut oil is high in calories and when used too much, can cause weight gain, especially if combined with a high calorie diet.

In fact, all the risks associated with coconut oil are reduced to saturated fat, which is common in coconuts. The American Hospital Association recently warned of saturated fat, especially coconut oil. The American Heart Association also recommends that you limit your intake of saturated fat to a maximum of 6% of your total calorie intake.

In general, health experts recommend staying clear of saturated fat and edging towards unsaturated fats to improve heart health and healthy eating habits.

Other side effects associated with coconut oil include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, swollen glands, joint or muscle pain, abdominal pain, coldness, itching or rashes, or other bad skin conditions.

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