The benefit of coconut oil has been extolled by celebrities and health food sellers lately. You may have already come across articles or advertisement that promote various health benefits of coconut oil. Have you ever wondered the credibility of those health claims? Let’s have a look if they are supported by scientific evidence.
Claim 1: Can coconut oil reduce your blood cholesterol level?
Coconut oil is extracted from coconut flesh, it is purely fat and leaving behind all the other nutrients in the coconut, e.g. carbohydrate, protein and fibre.
Coconut oil is made up of 92% of saturated fat. Over consumption of saturated fat will raise the LDL cholesterol (the “bad cholesterol”) levels in your body, which forms fatty deposits in blood vessels and increase the risk of developing heart diseases.
Claim 2: Is coconut oil a better option than other vegetable oil?
Vegetable oils are still a better option compared to coconut oil due to the lower saturated fat content, and a greater unsaturated fat to saturated fat ratio, which is more heart-healthy. According to the National Heart Foundation, consumers are encouraged to limit saturated fat intake to <10% of total energy intake, and also choose oils high in unsaturated fat such as olive, canola, and rice bran oil.
Besides, coconut oil also provides no vitamins or antioxidant compounds like those found in extra virgin olive oil, and not to mention that coconut oil contains a very small amount of essential fatty acids which makes it an even less favourable option for cooking oils.
Claim 3: Can Coconut oil prevent Alzheimer’s disease?
The presence of MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) in coconut oil is known to break down in the body easily due to its chemical structure. Some believe that MCT prevents the starving of the brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease by being a quick source of energy. However, to date there is no adequate evidence to support such theory. Also, MCT only accounts for 10-20% of total fat in coconut oil, where the amount may be too small to produce a significant beneficial effect.
Most of the claims for potential health benefits in coconut oil are solely based on small sampled or animal studies and therefore does not provide adequate scientific evidence on a larger or human scale.
In summary, current guidelines do not support the routine consumption of coconut oil, as its disadvantages outweigh the “marketed” benefits. However, it can still be enjoyed in small amounts as part of a healthy diet!