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Coconut oil, now gaining fame for its health-promoting benefits

By Ben Ukwuoma with agency reports

ALTHOUGH blasphemed for 60 years by the medical press, coconut oil is now gaining fame for its health-promoting benefits.

The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength.

The truth about coconut oil is obvious to anyone who has studied the health of those who live in traditional tropical cultures, where coconut has been a nutritious diet staple for thousands of years.

Back in the 1930's, a dentist named Dr. Weston Price traveled throughout the South Pacific, examining traditional diets and their effect on dental and overall health.

He found that those eating diets high in coconut products were healthy and trim, despite the high fat concentration in their diet, and that heart disease was virtually non-existent.

Similarly, in 1981, researchers studied populations of two Polynesian atolls. Coconut was the chief source of caloric energy in both groups. The results, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, demonstrated that both populations exhibited positive vascular health.

In fact, no evidence exists that the naturally occurring high saturated fat intake had any kind of harmful effect in these populations

In fact, 50 per cent of the fat content in coconut oil is a fat rarely found in nature called lauric acid. These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing.

The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin which is claimed to help in dealing with viruses and bacteria causing diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV.

It helps in fighting harmful bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia. As a result of these various health benefits of coconut oil, though its exact mechanism of action was unknown, it has been extensively used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicinal system.

Essentially, coconut oil consists of more than 90 per cent of saturated fats, with traces of few unsaturated fatty acids, such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Virgin Coconut Oil is no different from this.

The Saturated Fatty Acids: Most of them are Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are supposed to assimilate well. Lauric Acid is the chief contributor, with more than 40 per cent of the share, followed by Capric Acid, Caprylic Acid, Myristic Acid and Palmitic.

Coconut oil is about 2/3 medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. These types of fatty acids produce a whole host of health benefits. Coconut oil is nature's richest source of these healthy MCFAs.

By contrast, most common vegetable or seed oils are comprised of long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), also known as long-chain triglycerides or LCTs.

Experts explained that these long-chain fatty acids are not as healthy as the MCFAs found in coconut oil, because of their inability to break down easily as they require special enzymes for digestion.

In fact, the LCFAs are said to put more strain on the pancreas, liver and the entire digestive system.

The LCFAs are predominantly stored in the body as fat, deposited within the arteries in lipid forms such as cholesterol. In contrast to LFCAs, the MCFAs found in coconut oil are the direct opposite.

They permeate cell membranes easily, and do not require special enzymes to be utilized effectively by the body.

They are easily digested, thus putting less strain on the digestive system.

LCFAs are sent directly to your liver, where they are immediately converted into energy rather than being stored as fat.

MCFAs actually help stimulate your body's metabolism, leading to weight loss.

Coconut oil is one of the best natural nutrition for hair. It helps in healthy growth of hair providing them a shiny complexion. Regular massage of the head with coconut oil ensures that the scalp is free of dandruff, lice, and lice eggs, even if your scalp is dry.

Coconut oil is very soothing and hence it helps in removing stress. Applying coconut oil to the head followed with a gentle massage is said to help in removing mental fatigue.

Besides the mounting medical and scientific evidence that coconut oil has powerful positive health benefits when eaten, professional has also used it for decades massage therapists to knead away tight stressed muscles.

Coconut oil is actually ideal for skin care. It helps protect your skin from the aging effects of free radicals, and can help improve the appearance of skin with its anti-aging benefits.

In fact, physiologist and biochemist Dr Ray Peat, considers coconut oil an antioxidant, due to its stability and resistance to oxidation and free radical formation.

Like Peat, many experts believe coconut oil may help restore more youthful-looking skin. When coconut oil is absorbed into the skin and connective tissues, it helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by helping to keep the connective tissues strong and supple, and aids in exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin cells, making the skin smoother.

The oil is also excellent massage oil for the skin as well. It acts as an effective moisturizer on all types of skins including dry skin. The benefit of coconut oil on the skin is comparable to that of mineral oil.

Coconut oil helps in preventing premature aging and degenerative diseases due to its antioxidant properties

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