In recent years, coconut oils products with different health claims have been emerged in the market. Some of them claimed containing lower calories compared to other types of oil; and therefore, help for losing weight. Others claimed their coconut oil products are cold-pressed (minimal processing), and helps for brain diseases. Many rumors and claims on coconut oil are widely circulated.
Are these rumors and claims true?
Up to now, scientific studies on coconut oil are limited. In addition, the existing study results were based on non-hydrogenated and non-oxidized coconut oil, not the processed coconut oil commonly found in the market. So, they are not comparable and we need to be cautioned about the claims.
Myth 1: Coconut oil does not increase cholesterol in the blood stream
Coconut oil contains mostly saturated fatty acids. Some studies have pointed out that, coconut oil that without oxidation and hydrogenation are less capable to increase overall and “bad” cholesterol in the blood stream when compared with butter. However, it does have higher capability in increasing cholesterol compared to other vegetable oils, such as olive oil and canola oil. So it is not suggested using coconut oil as an alternative to other vegetable oils.
Myth 2: Coconut oil does not increase the concentration or viscosity of the blood
Blood concentration and its viscosity affected by many factors, including cholesterol. If the diet is loaded with large amount of coconut oil, it increases blood cholesterol as it contains mostly saturated fatty acids; and thus, increases blood concentration and viscosity.
Myth 3: Coconut oil does not increase chance of getting obese (it contains lower calories compared to other oils, so helps for losing weight)
There is no sufficient evidence to prove that coconut oil helps weight control. Similar to other types of oil, each gram of coconut oil contains about 9 kilocalories, which is considered as a high-calorie food. Consuming large amount of coconut oil increases chance of getting obese and leads weight control harder. Coconut oil was claimed containing large amount of MCT (medium-chain triglycerides, that is fatty acid with 6 to 8 carbon atoms), which aids in burning fat. Although coconut oil is a good source of MCT, MCT in relation to fat burning is still inconclusive.
Myth 4: Coconut oil prevents osteoporosis
The main nutrients help preventing osteoporosis are calcium and vitamin D. Coconut oil is not a good source of these nutrients. Such claim is lack of research data to support.
Myth 5: Coconut oil regulates thyroid hormone, prevents cancers, increases resistance to bacteria and virus, enhances immune system, and provides instant energy for body
There are not enough research data to support such functions.
Myth 6: Coconut oil can control blood sugar
Carbohydrate is the nutrient affects blood sugar level. To control blood sugar, watch the intake amount of carbohydrate. Although oil, including coconut oil, does not affect the blood sugar level, it affects the level of blood cholesterol and lipid.
Myth 7: Coconut oil can improve the digestive system and help for fecal impaction
The MCT in coconut oil is easier to be digested compare to other types of oil. But, that does not mean it improves the ability of digestion. Also, there are no sufficient evidence to support coconut oil can help fecal excretion. Eating more food that enriched in fiber can improve digestion and fecal impaction.
Myth 8: Coconut oil is enriched with nutrient
Although coconut oil contains fatty acid and vitamin E, but it is not considered as “especially nutritious”.
Myth 9: Coconut oil has permanent shelf life
Compared to other types of oil, coconut oil has longer shelf life. It will not last forever on the shelf.
Myth 10: Cold-pressed coconut oil helps for brain diseases
There is still insufficient evidence to support cold-pressed coconut oil is beneficial to brain diseases.