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Have you noticed how everyone is coo coo for coconut oil of late?  Vilified in the 1970s for allegedly clogging arteries, recent research especially in alternative medicine circles now champions coconut oil as a health food.  Both traditional scientists and the market have taken notice of the swing.

Science, as we know, is shifty, and facts are fleeting.  Cornell University professor Dr. Thomas Brenna attributes the fault of earlier studies to the use of partially hydrogenated coconut oil—that is, oil that’s been altered into trans fat form.

“Virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, is a different thin in terms of a health risk perspective.”  He goes on to note that not all oils are created equally, and even saturated fats have a place in our lives.  “I think we in the nutrition field are beginning to say that saturated fats are not so bad, and the evidence that said they were is not so strong.”

Researchers like Brenna and scores of others are fascinated with coconut oil for its many health benefits.  They include:

  • Weight management
  • Cholesterol management
  • Management of Type-2 diabetes symptoms
  • Skin health
  • Dental health
  • Management of Alzheimer’s and dementia-related diseases

Weight, cholesterol, and diabetes management

Contrary to claims made in the ‘70s, coconut oil in moderate amounts does not lead to cardiovascular problems.  The primary saturated fat in virgin coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid that raises good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and lowers bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein).  Coconut oil also increases the oxidative capacity of muscles; scientists at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia believe that coconut oil therefore helped the mice in their study store less fat in their muscles and improve insulin action.

Coconut oil may also help shred visceral fat.  In a 2009 issue of the journal Lipids, Brazilian researchers attributed the reduction of waist circumference and weight in a group of women to their daily intake of 30 ml of coconut oil.  The other group of women studied took soybean oil instead (in addition to walking 50 minutes daily and reducing caloric intake, as did the coconut oil group).  While they lost weight, the women taking soybean oil did not lose waist circumference.

Coconut oil and Alzheimer’s

Given its previous reputation, coconut oil’s role in improving cardiovascular health is perhaps its most ironic attribute.  Its most surprising, then, may be its relationship to dementia-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Many believe poor insulin function can prevent glucose from feeding brain cells, leading to dementia.  When we eat coconut oil, however, the medium chain triglycerides promote the liver to metabolize ketones, an alternative fuel source for brain cells.

In one famed example, Steve Newport eventually lost the ability to even draw the face of a clock.  Expensive drugs like Aricept had done nothing but overwhelm him with side effects, but daily intake of just 4 teaspoons of coconut oil not only halted the progress of his disease but even reversed it.

Biochemists like Professor Kieran Clarke are even attempting a drug based off of coconut oil, but production is expensive.

Science is evolutionary, just like we are.  It likes to change its mind.  In the meantime, adding coconut oil to our diets may not be such a bad thing—for our bodies and our minds.

Kay Winders is presently the resident writer for http://www.badcreditloans.org, where she researches the best way for people to pay off their debts without damaging their credit. In her spare time, she enjoys freelance writing, the beach and gardening.

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