September 18, 2014

Common Misconceptions about the Nutritional Value of Coconut Oil: Exposing Three Common Myths

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by Brian Shilhavy, Editor Health Impact News Daily

When we first started publishing the research and the truth about coconut oil in 2000, almost nobody else on the Internet was publishing anything about coconut oil, even though many studies existed. Today, with the rise in popularity regarding coconut oil, many people are now touting its wonders, and as a result a lot of misinformation is also being propagated regarding coconut oil’s nutritional characteristics. So let’s clear up some of these myths, since coconut oil has great nutritional benefits without making up ones that don’t exist!

1. MYTH: One of the most propagated myths regarding coconut oil we are seeing on the Internet today is that it is a good source of Vitamin E. This is simply not true – not even in Virgin Coconut Oil. A search in the USDA database for coconut oil will confirm this fact, and we also tested Virgin Coconut Oil in the lab to determine its nutritional qualities, and we found very small amounts of Vitamin E. We suspect that people are saying this because coconut oil is known to be very nourishing to the skin.

FACT: What is true, however, is that when coconut oil is combined with a good source of Vitamin E, the Vitamin E is more readily absorbed by the skin and transferred to organs such as the heart and liver. This was shown in a study in Canada in 1999 at the University of Western Onatario. The study concluded that combining Vitamin E with coconut oil through the skin was a good alternative for those with gastrointestinal malabsorption diseases.

One caution about using Vitamin E as a supplement however: most of these are the tocopherol form of Vitamin E and come from soybean oil. If you want to avoid soybean oil, look for a Vitamin E from a source like Virgin Palm Oil which has the full complement of the tocotrienol form of Vitamin E believed to be more potent.

2. MYTH: Another myth commonly stated on the Internet is that coconut oil is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids. This is simply not true. Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids, and coconut oil is mostly saturated. You cannot take coconut oil for Omega 3 fatty acids.

FACT: Because coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is not prone to oxidation and free radical damage. An unopened jar of virgin coconut oil can last several years, even at room temperature. Polyunsaturated oils, however, are very prone to oxidation. Extracting polyunsaturated oils from plant sources is a recent phenomenon in human nutrition, since the development of expeller presses just after WWII. These oils spoil very quickly and can cause free radical damage in the body. But since most people in America are over-balanced in Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids towards too much of the Omega 6 and not enough of Omega 3s, Omega 3 supplements are very common. These oils are best consumed together with a healthy saturated fat like coconut oil, to prevent oxidation in the body and free radical damage. So if you are taking Omega 3 fatty acids as a supplement, take them together with coconut oil!

3. MYTH: Refined coconut oil is not healthy, only unrefined or virgin coconut oil is healthy. This is generally not true.

FACT: Most of the coconut oil in the world is RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized) coconut oil, which has been in the food chain for many years. Most of the original research done on the health benefits of coconut oil have been done on RBD coconut oil. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are the most potent source of nutrients found in coconut oil, and they are for the most part the same in RBD coconut oil. The refining process might strip away some of the other nutrients, such as antioxidants, but the medium chain fatty acids are what makes coconut oil unique, and you still get these in most refined coconut oils.

The one exception is hydrogenated coconut oil. Coconut oil is primarily saturated (85-90 percent), so most of the time there is no need to hydrogenate the other 10-15%. This mostly happens in tropical countries where coconuts originate. Coconut oil has a melting point of 76 degrees F., and in many tropical countries the ambient air temperature exceeds that. Therefore, foods prepared with non-hydrogenated coconut oil will not stay solid at common air temperatures. Hydrogenation can occur to make foods more shelf-stable. With the current knowledge regarding the dangers of trans-fats in the US, I don’t think there is much, if any, hydrogenated coconut oil being imported.

Many of the negative studies done on coconut oil in the past were done on hydrogenated coconut oil, or on diets fed animals where no Omeg 3 fatty acids were supplemented. As I wrote above, Omega 3 fatty acids are not present in coconut oil and need to be added to the diet elsewhere.

There is so much positive about coconut oil that is backed up by solid research and tremendous anecdotal evidence, that there is no reason to propagate myths regarding the nutritional benefits of coconut oil.

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