In the previous article, we compared information on nutrition and discussed the importance of filling our minds with true, or fact-based information, as opposed to fabricated stories containing false-facts and baseless claims. Today, I am going to discuss the many health benefits of coconut oil, while revealing an example of what a very misleading internet-based science "journal" looks like. Let's get started
Coconut Oil (Cocos nucifera):
The use of coconut oil is on the rise around the world. It is has made such a splash in pop culture that it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are anti-coconut oil campaigns surfacing from the ripples of the impact. Especially given coconut oil's health benefits for the human body.
Some Health Benefits of Coconut oil
Antifungal and Antibacterial
The Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry conducted an "in vivo" study on the comparison of the antibacterial efficacy of coconut oil and chlorhexidine (antiseptic antibacterial agent) on Streptococcus mutans (tooth decay). Published on October 24 2016 the study found that:
A different study conducted by the Skin and Cancer Foundation found that using virgin coconut oil and virgin olive oil as a topical agent for moisturizing the skin helped reduce Staphylococcus aureus (SA) bacteria during the "decolonization" of Atopic dermatitis. (10)
ALZHEIMER'S DEMENTIA TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
Volume 114 Issue 1 by the British Journal of Nutrition examines, "the role of dietary coconut for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease" (3). The article suggests that diet may play an important role in the prevention of Alzheimer's Disease:
BJN writes that the kind of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA's) found in coconut oil have a quicker metabolic conversion allowing them to be used immediately as fuel for organs and muscles instead of being stored as fat. They go on to suggest that these MCFA's can reduce obesity to an extent and that obesity "is an independent risk factor for hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes, which are, in turn, the risk factors associated with AD" (3).
In addition, these MCFA's can be converted into ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are a clean, alternative (to glucose) fuel that is capable of passing through the blood-brain barrier.
This research suggests that ketogenic diets have "been found to be one of the most effective therapies for drug-resistant epilepsy; it has also provided specific benefits in conditions such as GLUT protein I (GLUT-I) deficiency, pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency, myoclonic-astatic epilepsy (Doose syndrome), tuberous sclerosis complex, Rett syndrome and severe myoclonic epilepsy in infancy (Dravet syndrome) (3).
REDUCE RISK OF HEART DISEASE AND INDUCE WEIGHT LOSS
Just as the MCFA's found in coconut oil (previously mentioned) have a faster metabolic conversion allowing fuel to the brain very efficiently, they are also immediately absorbed through the small intestine and sent to the liver to be rapidly used for energy production and thusly "do not participate in the biosynthesis and transport of cholesterol" (4) (7).
The Ghana Medical Journal says:
When the GMJ refers to general prejudice, they are talking about "consumer activist groups and organizations such as Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the American Soybean Association (ASA) and other members of the edible oil industry" (4). Jon J. Kabara, echoes this when he writes "the past four decades misinformation and disinformation provided by certain politically biased agricultural groups and repeated in professional and lay press have lead people to believe that all saturated fats are unhealthy" (9). We will dive into this deeper later.
In a study conducted by the Department of Animal Science and the Animal Dairy Science Department, results concluded that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) induces enhanced body fat loss in mice when fed coconut oil. If you research further into the weight loss possibilities of CLA’s, you will yield even more fascinating research on the subject.
Finding The Facts:
The easiest way to know if the content you're reading is fact-based is simply by searching for their works cited page, also known as "sources". If you noticed in the previous text, I have listed numbers next to my claims about coconut oil (they look like (1), (2), (3), and so on). If you scroll down to the bottom of this article, you will see a "Works Cited" section where I have listed all my sources by number, title, and their direct link. If the website you are reading does not cite their work, chances are the content is not worth absorbing and you should move on to the next source.
An Example of Misinformation:
The Ghana Medical Journal claims that the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the American Soybean Association (ASA), and other consumer activist groups of the edible oil industry have “participated in more than three decades of abusive rhetoric against the coconut oil industry” (4). The Center For Science In The Public Interest. It sounds really credible, right? Even the website address, cspinet.org, looks rather convincing. Let's take a look at one specific article they have on "the Myths of Coconut Oil (6).
Myth 1: Coconut Oil Can Help Lose Weight
Immediately, CSPINET declares that there has only been one study done on whether coconut oil can help you lose weight, and that one study yielded unsatisfactory results. The article cited was posted on June 22, 2016. As of today December 21, 2016, a quick search on the PubMed engine using the terms "coconut oil weight loss" collected 32 published medical journal entries with the oldest entry dating back to 1983. Where were these guys looking for their information? In reference to the study I mentioned earlier titled "HEART DISEASE, CHOLESTEROL, AND WEIGHT LOSS" (2), the research concludes that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) induces enhanced body fat loss in mice when fed coconut oil.. This suggests that humans may have a similar result.
Myth 2: Coconut Oil Is Good For The Heart
The Center for Science in Public Interest article states: "The Facts: Researchers haven’t looked at whether people who use coconut oil to replace other fats suffer fewer heart attacks or strokes." (6). This fact is false. A search on PubMed using the terms "coconut oil heart disease" yields 53 results. The article I chose to cite on this topic is a 25-page review published in the Ghana Medical Journal, by the Ghana Medical Association, on the roles in which coconut and palm oils have on nutrition and health(4). It is important to note that they specifically claim that no funding was accepted in regards to their research (as to avoid conflicts of interest).
In the article, the Ghana Medical Association describes that the prevalence of chronic, non-communicable disease, and their risk factors, has increased over time in Ghana, and that these diseases have now become the top 10 causes of death in the country (4). For example, Fife reports that in 1978 Sri Lanka had one of the lowest heart disease rates in the world: 1 out of every 100,000 deaths (8). They report that for thousands of years coconut oil was one of the main sources for dietary fat in the region. Around the same time, heart-disease related deaths in the United States (where people depended primarily on polyunsaturated oils) were at least 280 times higher than in Sri Lanka. Coconut and palm oils were a "major source for dietary fats for centuries in most of West Africa." (4).
Despite increased research and social awareness of the health benefits of coconut oil by the medical community, many Ghanaians believe that these oils are unhealthy and artery-clogging because of the "negative anti-saturated fat campaigns that have been running for decades within the country"(4). Jon J. Kabara, writes "the past four decades misinformation and disinformation provided by certain politically biased agricultural groups and repeated in professional and lay press have lead people to believe that all saturated fats are unhealthy" (9). The result has been an increase in the consumption of polyunsaturated fats because of the substation of vegetable oils for coconut or palm oil. The article goes on to show that it was not until the substitution of vegetable oils for these dietary fats (coconut and palm oil) that major heart-related health problems started to arise. The Ghana Medical Journal directly accuses The Center For Science In The Public Interest as a leading member of the "misinformation” campaigns (4).
Myth 3: Coconut Oil Can Help Prevent Dementia.
CSPINET says: "The Facts: Not likely," claiming that no good studies have been conducted. Alternatively, I found three articles on PubMed using the search terms "coconut oil dementia", 15 articles for "coconut oil brain disease", and 51 articles when I searched "coconut oil lauric acid". At the beginning of this article, I referred to the health benefits of coconut oil as a possible dietary measure to prevent Alzheimer's Dementia. These studies directly disagree with CSPINET's claim, I will briefly highlight the studies below:
+ Volume 114 Issue 1 by the British Journal of Nutrition. The article suggests that diet may play an important role in the prevention of Alzheimer's Disease: (3)
"The use of coconut oil (extra virgin/virgin), coconut water and coconut cream may have significant positive effects on the lowering of plasma cholesterol, blood pressure (BP) control and blood glucose levels, all of which are risk factors associated with AD" -British Journal of Nutrition (3)
+ Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) found in coconut oil can reduce obesity, which "is an independent risk factor for hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes, which are, in turn, the risk factors associated with AD" (3).
+ MCFA's can be converted into ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are a clean, alternative (to glucose) fuel that is capable of passing through the blood-brain barrier, and that ketogenic diets have "been found to be one of the most effective therapies for drug-resistant epilepsy" (3).
The research shows that coconut oil really does have many health benefits. The research also tells us that for over three decades anti-coconut oil campaigns have been driven by members of the edible oil industry (including CSPINET) to promote the consumption of polyunsaturated vegetable oils as substitution for coconut and palm oil, I hope this article is helpful in differentiating between what is, and what is not, a trustworthy source for information.