Although millions of Americans regularly purchase coconut oil for its alleged fat burning qualities and health benefits, the recent hype surrounding the product has resulted from what has largely amounted to legend and myth. Coconut oil is currently marketed in America to be a multipurpose super food offering a plethora of healing properties. Although the product does offer some health benefits, consumers should be made aware of the possible dangers if overused.
Coconut oil is believed to burn fat and aid in weight loss. According to a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, coconut oil performed worse in its ability to control appetite and improve metabolism in comparison to olive oil. Coconut oil also contains more calories and grams of fat than olive oil when consumed at the same dosage. Licensed nutritionist Monica Reinagel from Scientific American explains that coconut oil may also increase risks of heart disease due to the high concentration of cholesterol and saturated fat.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants with diets rich in coconut oil had an eight percent increase in LDL cholesterol compared to the general population. Excess LDL cholesterol consumption may result in coronary heart disease. However, coconut oil also contains HDL cholesterol, also known as “good cholesterol.” HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream decreases the risk of coronary heart disease. For these reasons, there is insufficient evidence to decipher the impact of coconut oil on heart disease. As Dr. Walter C. Willett from Harvard University explains:
Coconut oil’s special HDL-boosting effect may make it “less bad” than the high saturated fat content would indicate, but it’s still probably not the best choice among the many available oils to reduce the risk of heart disease.
When consumed in moderation, coconut oil is perfectly safe. However, coconut oil does not seem to offer the health benefits of other oils, such as olive and flaxseed. With the current amount of scientific evidence, the widespread belief that coconut oil is a heal-all substance is largely a myth. Still, there are other uses for this product that don’t appear to cause health problems.
For example, many women purchase coconut oil for its moisturizing capabilities, believing that the product contains less harmful chemicals that other leading moisturizers. Coconut oil quickly smoothens the skin and calms irritation. However, the product does not moisturize the deep layers of the skin, meaning it does not provide long lasting treatment and must be applied daily. Many women also use the product to moisturize hair. Although coconut oil is not as effective in resisting and rejuvenating hair damage as many other products, it is useful in moisturizing and preventing frizz, as reported by the International Journal of Trichology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal. However, the product should only be used in small amounts, as excess oil may backfire and become the cause of frizzy hair.
Although there are some health benefits to coconut oil, most scientists agree that the hype surrounding the product is by and large unproven. While most agree it does have some healthful qualities, the word is out that coconut oil should be used in moderation.