I am a former coconut oil addict. I used to cook with coconut oil, do hot oil hair treatments with coconut oil, make DIY body scrubs with it, and use coconut oil as an overall body moisturizer. Then, my brother told me about how weird I smelled from using coconut oil, and I became self conscious about stinking. Back in my coconut oil loving days, I heard about the health benefits of consuming a spoonful or two of coconut oil every morning. But I never tried it myself because one tablespoon of coconut oil has approximately 59% of our % Daily Value of saturated fat in it, and I thought it was extremely unhealthy to consume such a large amount of saturated fat. Now, one of my best friends has become obsessed with coconut oil and has started consuming it every morning for breakfast. Because I am concerned for her health, I decided to conduct research on coconut oil to ensure that my friend isn’t harming herself by eating coconut oil. The health claims of consuming coconut oil are it is a natural way to treat Alzheimer’s disease, heals urinary tract infections, decreases inflammation, aids in arthritis, prevents high blood pressure, improves type 2 diabetes, aids in weight loss, has anti-aging properties, anti-bacterial properties, anti-fungal properties, anti-viral properties, and anti- cancer properties. All of these health claims make coconut oil appear as if it is the wholly grail item every person should have in their homes, but does scientific research support the health claims on the consumption of coconut oil?

Claim 1: Coconut oil aids in weight loss.

According to a study conducted on the effects of consuming extra virgin coconut oil in coronary artery patients, coconut oil does help with weight loss. The longitudinal study was conducted on 116 coronary artery patients. During the first three months of the study, the subjects were placed on intensive nutritional treatment, and during the next three months, the subjects were divided into two groups. One group did not have to supplement with coconut oil while the other group consumed 13 mL of coconut oil per day, and each group was placed on the same diet. Several anthropometric measurements and blood samples were taken of the subjects before, during, and at the end of the study. The results of the study showed that the coconut oil group had significantly smaller waist circumferences compared to the non coconut oil group. One concern from the study is all of the subjects may have cheated the diet they were instructed to follow, and another concern is the lack of information on whether the gender of the subjects and the subjects BMI prior to the study were taken into account during statistical analysis.

Claim 2: Coconut oil prevents high blood pressure.

A study conducted in Malaysia showed the beneficial effects of coconut oil on blood pressure. The researchers in the study used 32 male Sprague- Dawley rats with similar weights and divided them into four groups that were fed different diets. One group was fed commercial rat chow, another group was fed rat chow and a dose of virgin coconut oil, the third group was fed rat chow combined with heated palm oil, and the fourth group was fed rat chow combined with heated palm oil and virgin coconut oil. The results of the study showed that the fourth group had significantly lower blood pressure compared to the control group. There are a confounding variables with study; the first is the group fed rat chow  and virgin coconut oil only had significantly lower blood pressure at the eight-week mark. The second is the study’s small subject size (only 32 rats were included in the study). The study was also conducted on rats, and there could be differences in the results if a similar study was conducted on humans.

In conclusion, coconut oil does not seem to pose a health risk to my friend, and it may actually benefit her health. However, further research needs to be completed on the health effects coconut oil consumption in humans.

Citations:

  1. Axe, Josh. “20 Coconut Oil Benefits (#5 Is Life-Saving).” Dr Axe. N.p., 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
  2. Cardoso, Diuli, Annie Moreira, Glaucia De Oliveira, Ronir Luiz, and Glorimar Rosa. “A Coconut Extra Virgin Oil-rich Diet Increases HDL Cholesterol and Decreases Waist Circumference and Body Mass in Coronary Artery Disease Patients.” Nutriticion Hospitalaria5 (2015): 2144-152. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
  3. Nurul-Iman, Badlishah Sham, Yusof Kamisah, Kamsiah Jaarin, and Hj Mohd Saad Qodriyah. “Virgin Coconut Oil Prevents Blood Pressure Elevation and Improves Endothelial Functions in Rats Fed with Repeatedly Heated Palm Oil.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013): 1-7. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.
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