How Does Coconut Oil Do What it Does?

I'm sure by now we have all heard that coconut oil is good for us. Heck, some of us may use it on a daily basis because we read something online, or heard someone say we should, and not really even know the benefits which we are receiving from it. Unlike most, I am the type of person who not only wants to know the benefits, but wants to also pass along that information to those who are interested!

If you were to Google ™ search “What are the health benefits of coconut oil?”, odds are you would come across an abundance of websites that will list out anywhere from 10 to possibly 20 benefits. So rather than sitting here and relisting those out, I want to focus on a few, which I believe can help aid in both your overall health and wellness, along with your performance, and recovery both inside and outside of the gym.

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is a saturated fat that is primarily made up of Medium Chained Triglycerides (MCTS) which include Caprylic acid, Lauric acid, and Capric acid. MCTS are fatty acids which are utilized differently by the body in comparison to their long chained fatty acid counterpart. MCT’s are broken down almost immediately by enzymes in the stomach and saliva, allowing them to be absorbed rapidly then sent to the liver where they can be burned for energy. Making them less likely to be stored as adipose tissue!

Body Composition

Coconut oil is very useful for weight loss. 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 healthy functioning of the thyroid and endocrine system; increasing the body’s metabolic rate by removing stress on the pancreas, thereby burning more energy and helping people lose weight. The reason behind this being that it contains less 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.

In short, this means that MCFAS permeate cell membranes easily, and do not require lipoproteins or special enzymes to be utilized effectively by your body. Leading to all of the following:

  • easily digested, thus putting less strain on your digestive system. This is especially important for those of you with digestive or metabolic concerns.

  • are sent directly to your liver, where they are immediately converted into energy rather than being stored as fat.

  • can actually help stimulate your body's metabolism, leading to weight loss.

Digestion/Absorption:

The saturated fats found in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties through their Lauric and Caprylic acids! This straight chain fatty acid has been shown to help kill of a wide range of bacteria, protect against stomach ulcers, sinus infections, food poisoning, uti's, and cavities through a property called monolaurin. All of which can lead to improvements in the digestive system, helping prevent various stomach and digestion-related problems.

Monolaurin has recently been linked to a number of research studies through the Journal of Medicinal food that have found it to help fight the bad gut bacterias that lead to bloating, acid reflux,gi distress, and overall feelings of depression, and anxiety.

By reducing the amount of bad bacteria in the gut, and increasing the good bacteria you are setting yourself up to optimize nutrient absorption. Without good gut bacteria, your body cannot absorb certain starches, fiber, and sugars. Making it difficult for your digestive tract to convert these carbohydrates into primary sources of important energy. Which can lead to any or all of the following symptoms

  • Constipation

  • Bloating

  • Cramping

  • Flatulence and belching

  • Heartburn and acid reflux

Not only can coconut oil help increasing your overall gut health, but we need to remember that it is a saturated fat. So when it is paired with fat soluble vitamins, and minerals such as A, D, E, and K you will be able to get the most out of them, aiding in your ability to build healthy cells and increase hormone production.

Coconut oil has also been shown to help reduce inflammation within the body. With Coconut oil being composed of medium chain fatty acids; lauric acid, capric acid, caprylic acid and caproic acid this allows for a neutral effect on the production of cytokines that cause inflammation. Also helping to suppress oxidative stress.

A study conducted by Faculty of Nursing, Payap University Chiang Mai, Thailand states that unrefined virgin coconut oil has anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Two models were used for this study, an acute and chronic. The unrefined oil showed moderate effects against the acute inflammatory models whereas there was a definitive inhibitory effect against chronic inflammatory models.

Results showed that there was decrease in transudate, the product of inflammation and significant decrease in the formation of granulomas. All the properties of the oil were evaluated and it was concluded that coconut oil has analgesic as wells as antipyretic effects along with anti-inflammatory property.

**The researchers concluded that lauric acid inhibited the NF-kB activation and thus helped in reducing the inflammation


Coconut oil is high in natural saturated fats. Saturated fats not only help to increase our healthy cholesterol; HDL, but also help to convert the bad LDL cholesterol into good cholesterol. Through this process of LDL to HDL conversion, the promotion of heart health increases, while lowering the risk of heart disease. Coconut oil is an ideal fat source to use for those on low carbohydrate, high fat diets. In a 2004 study published in the Journal of Neurobiology of Aging, researchers found that the fatty acids inside of coconut oil improved subjects memory, improved cognition, and increases in brain cell efficiency! How? Coconut oil’s fatty acids are easily processed by the body, which allows for the brain to utilize them, without the use of insulin.

Again, these are only some of the benefits which coconut oil has to offer!

All the best from us here at Modern Athletic Health!

-Thomas Munck

References

Health Impact News. (2017). MCT OIL VS COCONUT OIL; THE TRUTH EXPOSED. Data Retrieved from https://healthimpactnews.com/2014/mct-oil-vs-coconut-oil-the-truth-exposed

Molecule Expressions. (2015). Lauric Acid. Data Retrieved from http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/optics/olympusmicd/galleries/polarized/lauricacid1.html

Galvin, James E. (2012). OPTIMIZING DIAGNOSIS AND MANAGEMENT IN MILD-TO-MODERATE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Neurodegenerative Disease Management. June 2012 ,Vol. 2, No. 3, Pages 291-304 , DOI 10.2217/nmt.12.21 (doi:10.2217/nmt.12.21)

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