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Is Coconut Oil Really the "Panacea" for Reducing Fat and Antisepsis?


Over the past two years, coconut oil has become a "star" in the food materials. It is said that it has the miracle effects such as weight reducing, antisepsis, sterilization, hairdressing and beauty, thus regarding as the "panacea". But are these miracle effects real?

Coconut oil is not as healthy as you think.

The main component of coconut oil is fat, and the main component of fat is triglyceride, which is composed of three molecules of fatty acid and monomolecular glycerin. The health of oil depends largely on its fatty acid composition. Ordinary edible oils are mostly composed of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The standard recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) is: the ratio of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids is 1: 1: 1; the ratio of ω-3 and ω-6 in polyunsaturated fatty acids is 1: 4.

So what's the ratio of fatty acid in coconut oil? The content of saturated fatty acids in coconut oil is more than 80%, which is higher than that in lard and beef tallow. Obviously, its ratio of fatty acid is not in line with that recommended by World Health Organization.

Several institutions, including the Chinese Nutrition Society, have recommended to limit the intake of saturated fatty acids to no more than 10%, which is about 20 grams for adults. Studies have shown that the molecular structure of saturated fatty acids is rigid and inelastic. If cells use a large number of saturated fatty acids to form cytomembrane, the cytomembrane, which can flow freely like water, will solidify, resulting in the partial failure of the cell's physiological activities.

However, the unsaturated fatty acids can melt the "islet" formed by saturated fatty acids, making cells return to their normal state. A new article published by the American Heart Association (AHA) states that the saturated fat will increase the content of cholesterol of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is the leading cause of atherosclerosis. Now, would you want to eat 4 tablespoons of coconut oil a day?

Disguised replacement of the concepts of weight reducing and sterilization

Apparently, drinking coconut oil doesn't help you lose weight! But why do people believe that? This involves a new concept: medium-chain fatty acids. According to the length of carbon chain, fatty acids can be divided into long-chain fatty acids (containing 14-24 carbon), medium-chain fatty acids (containing 8-12 carbon) and short-chain fatty acids (containing less than 6 carbon). The food we eat contains mainly 18 carbon fatty acids. Some foods also contain a certain amount of medium-chain fatty acids, such as coconut oil, which contains 13.9% of medium-chain fatty acids.

Medium chain-fatty acids can be directly esterified with glycerides to form triglycerides without catalyst. It is water-soluble and can be absorbed directly by the small intestine without the bile emulsification, and it can enter the liver directly through the portal vein without the necessity of forming chylomicron. It can rapidly oxidize and produce energy in cells. Therefore, medium-chain fatty acids have begun to be valued in special foods, such as athlete's food and clinical practice. Currently, the use of medium-chain fatty acids fats in the United States is limited to specific foods.

Most of the claims about the "fat-burning benefits of coconut oil" on website are based on its similarity to a semi-synthetic MCT oil. MCT oils and fats are mostly made up of medium-chain fatty acids, and there have been studies showing that they can help you lose weight. However, the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are only 13.9%, so they do not possess the fat-reducing property of MCT oil. Moreover, even medium-chain fatty acids should not be overused, as they may quickly oxidize and produce more ketones, causing nausea and flushing.

So where did the claim that coconut oil can kill bacteria come from? That brings up another term: glycerol monolaurate. Glycerol monolaurate is a monoglyceride formed by monomolecular lauric acid and monomolecular glycerinum. It has good emulsifying ability, being widely used in food, medicine and cosmetics. Moreover, glycerol monolaurate has a good antibacterial ability, it can inhibit gram-positive bacterium, staphylococcus aureus and other bacteria, and is a good antiseptic substance and preservative.

Coconut oil contains 41% - 56% lauric acid, so it is labeled "sterilizable". Actually, coconut oil and the bacteriostatic glycerol monolaurate are two different substances and cannot be deemed as one.

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is just an edible oil. From the mainstream nutritional point of view (limiting saturated fatty acids), it is not even a healthy edible oil. Therefore, in order to balance the fatty acids, all kinds of edible oils should be eaten in rotation; it is also recommended to buy small packages of edible oil to prevent long-term oxidative rancidity; most of the time, peanut oil and rapeseed oil with slightly higher saturated fat content are used when frying food; be sure to eat less oil, no more than 20g a day!