Coconuts have been relished for their taste and used in food preparations in tropics since ages. We enjoy drinking coconut water, eating coconut flesh or coconut milk. Claimed as a superfood with medicinal properties, where exactly do they stand in the nutrition sector?
Coconut for Weight Loss
Internet claims made every other day that coconut oil helps in weight loss is a myth. These sites claim that coconut oil helps to do away with body fat equating it to a semi-synthetic laboratory product known as MCT oil. MCT oil is used in tube feeding or for malnourished people as this oil is directly absorbed by the liver making it easy to use it rapidly for fuel compared to other fats. While certain studies point to the fact that MCT oil might help in weight loss, there do exist side effects such as nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
If biting on some coconut flesh could aid in weight loss, then its well and good. But no study has established the benefits of coconut oil on hunger, satiety or fullness.
Studies in fact, show that coconut oil raise LDL (bad) cholesterol which can increase the risk of heart disease compared to corn, safflower or sesame oil. It can only be claimed that coconut oil is slightly better than butter. The website https://blog.ifis.org/ can help you with further details.
But, evidence also exist showing that people who lived a traditional lifestyle relying on coconut oil as the primary source of fat indicated decreased levels of heart disease. Except for this, coconut oil does not seem to have any positive effect on diet and activity.
Bacteria & Virus
Internet sites claim coconut oil to be helpful in killing bacteria, fungi and virus due to the presence of monolaurin, a compound derived from lauric acid. For certain types of infection monolaurin oil is proclaimed to be useful, but this cannot be exponentially used to make claims on coconut oil as we don’t even have evidence supporting the fact that our body can make monolaurin from coconut oil.
We have only been able to find a manufactured form (glycerol monolaurate) of monolaurin in coconut oil which is believed to have emulsifying and moisturizing properties which makes coconut oil useful in manufacturing soaps, detergents and cosmetics.
Hair Growth & Repair
Even a few journal studies claim coconut oil applied to the hair to have a better penetrating effect on the hair shaft than mineral oil. The advantages and benefits are still to be explored and we cannot come to any conclusions right now. At the same time, coconut oil massaged on the hair is highly unlikely to cause any disastrous effect on body health and hence, it can be definitely used for this reason.
Teeth Whitening Agent
This is another exaggerated of the idea that coconut oil can kill harmful bacteria. The concept of ‘oil pulling’ became so popular in India some few years back that many oil companies reaped enormous profits using this concept. This practice of swishing oil in the mouth for some 10-30 minutes before spitting it out is practiced in Ayurvedic medicines in our country and is believed to flush away toxins. But, if you feel like having a headache or sick, it can mean that toxins are being removed from your body. There is no authentic scientific evidence supporting this and this practice can never replace proper dental care.
Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.