The most saturated fat for your health, benefits of coconut oil, uses of coconut palm tree

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See Mike's previous column, "10 reasons to eat more saturated fat"

Taken from the fruit portion of the seed from the coconut palm tree, coconut oil is one of the most beneficial foods you can consume. In tropical regions where coconut oil or fat is a large portion of their caloric intake, people are much healthier and experience a much lower incidence of the modern diseases we do in the U.S. [1, 2] The uses are so respected that they were documented by Ayurvedic medicine in Sanskrit from 1500 B.C., in all areas relating to the mind, body and spirit.

There is an array of positive research published in the last few years showing the significance of coconut oil [3]. Coconut oil is classified as a "functional food" because of its health benefits that go far beyond its nutritional content. In fact, the coconut palm is so highly valued by Pacific Islanders as a source of food and medicine that it is called "The Tree of Life" [4].

Coconut oilCoconut oil is the most saturated of all fats. Saturated fat has three subcategories: short chain, medium chain and long chain. Coconut oil contains about 65 percent medium chain fatty acids (MCFA). Although recognized for its health benefits many centuries ago, it wasn’t until 40 years ago that modern medicine found the source to be MCFA. Remarkably, mother’s milk contains the same healing powers as coconut oil [5].

Lauric acid, a saturated medium chain lipid, comprises more than 50 percent of coconut oil; it is the anti-bacterial, anti-viral fatty acid found in mother’s milk [6]. Tropical oils and mother’s milk are by far the richest food sources of medium chain fatty acids available, especially the all-important lauric acid, comprising almost 50 percent of the resource. The closest other source of these vital building blocks for our immune system would be milk fat and butter, comprising around 3 percent of its content. The body converts lauric acid into the fatty acid derivative monolaurin, which is the substance that protects adults as well as infants from viral, bacterial or protozoal infections. This was recognized and reported as early as 1966 [7]. All other vegetable oils are completely deficient in these MCFAs.

Since the first half of the 19th century, infection has been implicated as a cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD) [8]. Researchers have been studying what causes the changes in the arterial wall. Professors Russell Ross and John Glomset formulated a hypothesis in 1973 about what causes CVD, concluding that CVD occurs in response to localized injury to the lining of the artery wall, which has been brought about by a number of things, including viruses [9, 10]. The injury, in turn, causes inflammation and/or infection. The plaque that develops is a result of the body trying to heal itself. It has been very well established that pathogens play an integral role in CVD.

What is interesting about the role of viruses that have been found to initiate CVD is they can be inhibited by the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil. One could say that consuming coconut oil decreases your risk of CVD.


Only use organic virgin coconut oil. I am currently using Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil. This oil is truly unrefined and made from organic coconuts. It has a very high lauric acid content, between 50 and 57 percent. I use between two and four tablespoons per day, which is the recommended dosage. A quick Google search for "organic virgin coconut oil" will yield plenty of other options.


1. Enig, Mary. "A New Look at Coconut Oil."

2. Rethinam, P. Muhatoyo. "The Plain Truth About Coconut Oil."

3. Enig, Mary. "Latest studies on coconut oil." Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts. Spring,2006;7(1).

4. "Coconut." Coconut Research Center.

5. Kabara, Jon J. "Health Oils From The Tree of Life – Nutritional and Health Aspects of Coconut Oil."

6. Enig, Mary. Know Your Fats. Silver Spring: Bethesda Press, 2000

7. Lee, Lita. "Coconut Oil: Why is it Good for you." Dec. 2001.

8. Epstein, Stephen, et al. "Infection and Atherosclerosis." Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2000;20:1417

9. "Getting to the Heart of Atherosclerosis." The UW Office of Research.

10. Furci, Michael. "Fats, Cholesterol and the Lipid Hypothesis."

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