Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

The health benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil

What is all this fuss about coconut oil? A few people have asked me this question and it wasn’t until I did my own little bit of research that I really got an insight into how good it is for you!

I knew that it was a better option to virgin olive oil due to the fact it has a better classification of fatty acid, but I didn’t realise all of the other benefits attached to it.



Here comes the scientific part – oils and fats are composed of molecules known as fatty acids. They are classified on molecular size or length of the fatty acid’s carbon chain. Long chains of carbon atoms consist of each fatty acid with an attached hydrogen atom.

There are short chain fatty acids known as SCFA, medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) such as coconut oil and long chain fatty acids (LCFA). Whether unsaturated or saturated, the majority of fats and oils in our diet are composed of long chain fatty acids. In fact, a majority of the fatty acids commonly consumed are LCFA.

Coconut oil is predominantly medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) and the effects of the MCFA in coconut oil are distinctly different from the LCFA found in other foods. In fact, the saturated and unsaturated fat in milk, eggs, meat and even in plants and most vegetable oils are made of LCFA.

Why is this relevant? It is important because our bodies respond and metabolise each fatty acid differently. It is the MCFA found in coconut oil that makes it special because these fatty acids do not have a negative effect on cholesterol.

In fact, they are known to lower the risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis. There are only a few dietary sources of MCFA, and one of the best sources by far is coconut oil.

The liver and gall bladder do not need to digest and emulsify MCFA, resulting in instant energy, increased metabolic rate and subsequently more heat production as well as increased circulation.

Anyone with an impaired fat digestion or removed gallbladder will benefit from coconut oil as this oil is easily digested. (For further information take a look at



Coconut oil has many health benefits which are attributed to the presence of lauric acid. When it is present in the body, lauric acid is converted into monolaurin, a compound that is highly toxic to viruses, bacteria, funguses and other micro-organisms because of its ability to disrupt their lipid membranes and virtually destroy them.

Monolaurin is effective for treating fungal infections and athlete’s foot. It also targets bacterial infections and viruses like measles, influenza and even HIV.

In fact, researchers from the Philippines are studying the effectiveness of lauric acid against HIV/AIDS due to its strong anti-viral properties. Moreover, lauric acid is non-toxic, making it a better alternative to modern drugs that are typically prescribed for viruses as well as fungal and bacterial infections.

Without lauric acid, monolaurin cannot be produced by the body. Breast milk is the only other source of lauric acid, which helps explain the lesser incidents of infections with breast-fed infants. It has also been observed that regular consumption of coconut oil boosts immunity and reduces incidences of sickness.


Now that we have got the technical side covered let’s look at the benefits of coconut oil on the body.


Coconut oil is one of the best natural nutrients for hair. It helps in healthy growth of hair providing it with a shiny complexion. It is effective in reducing the protein loss for damaged and undamaged hair. Research studies also indicate that coconut oil provides better protection to hair from damage caused by hygral fatigue.


Coconut oil is an excellent massage oil for the skin as well. It acts as an effective moisturiser on all types of skins including dry skin. Unlike mineral oil, there is no chance of having any adverse side effects on the skin with the application – it also delays wrinkles, and sagging of the skin which normally become prominent with age.

Coconut oil also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections.


There is a misconception spread among many people that coconut oil is not good for the heart. This is because it contains a large quantity of saturated fats.

However, coconut oil is beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50 per-cent lauric acid, which helps in preventing various heart problems including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.


Coconut oil is very useful in reducing weight. As I have already explained it contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight.

It is also easy to digest and it helps in the healthy functioning of the thyroid and enzymes systems. Furthermore, it increases the body metabolism by removing stress on the pancreas, thereby burning out more energy and helping obese and overweight people reduce their weight.


Internal use of coconut oil occurs primarily as cooking oil. Coconut oil helps in improving the digestive system and thus prevents various stomach and digestion related problems including irritable bowel syndrome. Coconut oil also helps in absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.


Coconut oil is also good for the immune system. It strengthens the immune system as it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.

The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin which is claimed to help in dealing with viruses and bacteria causing diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV. It helps in fighting harmful bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia.


When applied on infections, it forms a chemical layer which protects the infected body part from external dust, air, fungi, bacteria and virus. Coconut oil is most effective on bruises as it speeds up the healing process by repairing damaged tissues.


Coconut oil is strongly recommended for other benefits which are given below. Usage of coconut oils mildly helps for the following:

• Liver – the presence of medium chain triglycerides and fatty acids helps in preventing liver diseases as they substances are easily converted into energy when they reach the liver, thus reducing the work load on the liver and also preventing the accumulation of fat.

• Kidney – Coconut oil helps in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases. It also helps in dissolving kidney stones.
Pancreatitis – Coconut oil is also believed to be useful in treating Pancreatitis.

• Stress relief – Coconut oil is very soothing and hence it helps in removing stress. Applying coconut oil to the head followed with a gentle massage helps in removing mental fatigue.

• Diabetes – Coconut oil helps in controlling blood sugar, and improves the secretion of insulin. It also helps in effective utilisation of blood glucose, thereby preventing and treating diabetes.

• Bones – As mentioned earlier, coconut oil improves the ability of our body to absorb important minerals. These include calcium and magnesium which are necessary for development of bones. Thus coconut oil is very useful to women who are prone to osteoporosis after middle age.

• Dental care – Calcium is an important element present in teeth. Since coconut oil facilitates absorption of calcium by the body, it helps in getting strong teeth. Coconut oil also stops tooth decay.

• Finally, coconut oil is often preferred by athletes and body builders and by those who are dieting. The reason behind this being that coconut oil contains lesser calories than other oils, its fat content is easily converted into energy and it does not lead to accumulation of fat in the heart and arteries.Coconut oil helps in boosting energy and endurance, and enhances the performance of athletes.


If you are using coconut oil for hair or skin care, just melt the oil (if it is solid) by placing the bottle in warm water.
Then take the oil on your palm and apply it to your hair.

If you want to use it for internal consumption, simply replace butter or vegetable oils with coconut oil in your recipes. Remember, you need not switch to coconut oil completely, as you will miss the benefits of other oils and dairy products.


At the minute the only place that I can buy coconut oil is either online or at Holland and Barrett.

Talk to the staff in there and they will be more than happy to help.

I also have heard that Supervalu in Omagh will be stocking it very soon!!


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