There is a good reason that coconut oil is one of the best selling items in natural health and conventional supermarkets today. Some health experts claim that it is, “The most versatile food on the planet,” yet other authorities disagree and there is now a coconut oil controversy that has gone viral. (1)
Culinary skills, body care and medicinal benefits seem almost never-ending and the list keeps on growing. Coconut's lipid profile is the key to its almost “magical” benefits. Coconut oil consists of three of the rarest fatty acids in nature: lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. Known as medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), research has linked a multitude of health benefits to these easily digestible fats. As stated by NYU Langone's Medical Center, medium chain triglycerides may be especially advantageous for: (2)
- AIDS Patients – It helps those who are unable to digest fats to gain much needed weight.
- Diabetics – It improves insulin sensitivity and promotes weight loss.
- Overweight/Obese Individuals – It improves body composition (ratio of fat to lean tissue).
- Athletes – It enhances high-intensity and endurance activities.
Likewise, reliable sources claim that MCFAs can prevent muscle breakdown in critically ill patients such as cancer victims and it help children with certain types of seizures. (3)
The Top 21 Successful Coconut Oil Uses
- Cooking – One of the best high-heat cooking oils.
- Coffee Creamer – Tasty and healthy replacement for dairy cream.
- Nutritional Supplement – Rich in lauric acid, coconut oil has been used a natural cure for hundreds of ailments
- Weight Loss – Can boost your metabolism.
- Heart Health – Contains a balanced mix of LDLs and HDLs.
- Mental Function – Known by some natural health experts to help prevent Alzheimer's disease.
- Balance Hormones – The thyroid and adrenal glands are supported by the healthy fats in coconut oil.
- Healthy Digestion – Helps destroy bad bacterial and promotes probiotic growth
- Booster – Just 1 teaspoon daily can do wonders for energy levels.
- Pulling – Detoxifies the oral cavity and helps prevent tooth decay.
- Fighter – A powerful antimicrobial, it can help with athlete's foot, yeast infections and much more. For some added oomph, add some pure tea tree or melaleuca essential oils.
- Body Lotion – Moisturizes without leaving a greasy residue, especially when you add essential oils.
- Rashes and Burns – Mixed with lavender and melaleuca, it is great for rashes, scraps and cuts. It's also very effective for eczema and psoriasis.
- Diaper Cream – Perfect for the most sensitive skin. Just add a little lavender essential oil for a nice calming, healing touch.
- Eye Makeup Remover – Simply apply and wash your face afterwards.
- Stretch Mark Prevention – Especially for pregnant ladies around the abdomen!
- Sun Block – It's a natural SPF 4.
- Shaving Cream and Lotion – Mix with some lavender, especially helpful for dry, sensitive skin.
- Wrinkles and Cellulite Solution – Add some grapefruit essential oil to tighten up problem areas.
- Anti-Itch – Great with lavender, melaleuca and eucalyptus oils to sooth bug bites and itchy skin.
- Bug Repellant – Mix with some citronella, peppermint, eucalyptus and orange essential oils to replace your bug spray.
Coconut Oil Controversy: AKA the FDA Storm
The coconut oil controversy is somewhat of a conundrum because of the research that exists, but the use of coconut oil as a nutritional supplement has been a cause of concern for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Because the FDA refuses to evaluate, test and monitor natural remedies, they prohibit manufacturers from advertising “drug claims” that support the use of coconut oil for therapeutic purposes. It's all because of the FD&C Act, which:
Defines drugs, in part, by their intended use, as “Articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” and “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals.” [FD&C Act, sec. 201(g)] (5)
A good example of this is Dr. Joe Mercola's Fresh Shores Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. (6) Due to the clinical trials and peer-reviewed research, Dr. Mercola has written these types of statements on his extremely popular website:
- “Coconut oil is . . . uniquely rich in lauric acid, which is converted to the same disease-fighting substance-monolaurin-that nursing babies derive from lauric acid in mother's milk. Research has demonstrated coconut oil's anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-parasitical properties …”
- “Pure Virgin Coconut Oil: The Healthy Fat That … Banishes Infection, And Heads Off Heart Disease.”
- “The numerous health benefits of coconut oil are finally again reaching the mainstream. Benefits like:
- Reducing your risk of heart disease …
- Reducing your risk of cancer and degenerative diseases …
- Preventing infections due to harmful bacteria, viruses, yeasts and other microorganisms …”
- “[H]elps you prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol …”
- “[L]auric acid is the predominant type of MCFA [medium-chain fatty acid] found in coconut oil … [A] great volume of research has been done establishing the ability of lauric acid to fight dangerous micro-organisms … like viruses, bacteria, yeasts, fungi, parasites and molds …Numerous studies have indicated that many viruses are inactivated by medium-chain fats – viruses like influenza, measles, HIV, herpes and cytomegalovirus.”
The FDA's Warning:
“These claims cause [Mercola's] products to be drugs, as drug, as defined in Section 201(g)(1)(B) of the Act [21 U.S.C. 321(g)(1)(B)]. Because these products are not generally recognized as safe and effective when used as labeled, they are also new drugs as defined in Section 201(p) of the Act [21 U.S.C. 321(p)]. New drugs may not be legally marketed in the United States without prior approval from FDA as described in Section 505(a) of the Act [21 U.S.C. 355(a)]. FDA approves new drugs on the basis of scientific data submitted by a drug sponsor to demonstrate that the drugs are safe and effective.”(6)
The same thing happened to Dr. Bronner's Magic “All-One!” Fresh-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil. Dr. Bronner's made the claim that,
“Clinical research confirms that the saturated medium chain fatty acids (MCT's) in [Virgin Coconut Oil], such as lauric acid, actually improve blood cholesterol by increasing the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol.”(7)
The FDA's Reprimand Stated:
“The therapeutic claims on your label establish that the product is a drug because it is intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. This claim indicates that your Dr. Bronner's Magic “All-One!” Fresh-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil product is intended for use in mitigating, treating, or preventing the disease, coronary heart disease. Since high blood total – and low density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, the claim that your product “improve(s) blood cholesterol by increasing the ratio of HDL to LDL” implies that your product is intended for use in the treatment, mitigation, and prevention of coronary heart disease.
Furthermore, your Dr. Bronner's Magic “All-One!” Fresh-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil product is offered for conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners; therefore, adequate directions for use cannot be written so that a layperson can use this drug safely for its intended use. Thus, this drug is misbranded within the meaning of section 502(f)(1) of the Act [21 U.S.C. 352(f)(1)], in that its labeling fails to bear adequate directions for use. The introduction of a misbranded drug into interstate commerce is a violation of section 301(a) of the Act [21 U.S.C. 331(a)].(7)
“The evidence that coconut oil is super-healthful is not convincing and these claims appear to be more testimonials than clinical evidence.
“There is very limited evidence on disease outcomes,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, of Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. “All that has been studied well is the impact of coconut oil on cholesterol levels and the findings are intriguing, but we still don't know if it is harmful or beneficial,” Mozaffarian says.
“Neither the American Heart Association (AHA) nor the U.S. government's 2010 Dietary Guidelines suggest that coconut oil is any better or preferable over other saturated fats. Coconut oil, like all saturated fats, should be limited to 7% – 10% of calories because it can increase risk for heart disease, according to the AHA and 2010 Dietary Guidelines.”
WebMD's take on the controversial health benefits of ingesting coconut oil:
“Coconut oil is better than butter and trans fats but not as good as liquid vegetable oils,” says Penn State University cardiovascular nutrition researcher Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD.
“(Experts agree) that coconut oil is better than partially hydrogenated trans fats and possibly animal fats.
“But even though coconut oil is cholesterol-free, it is still a saturated fat that needs to be limited in the diet and if you are looking for real health benefits, switch from saturated fats to unsaturated fats by using vegetable oils like soybean, canola, corn, or olive oil,” says Kris-Etherton, a member of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines advisory committee and Institute of Medicine's panel on dietary reference intakes for macronutrients (which include fats).
“Fats are an important part of a healthy diet, but the trick is to eat enough fat, not too much, and choose the best fats as often as possible. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that fats make up 20% to 35% of total calories and saturated fats less than 10%. And even though coconut oil is liquid, the Dietary Guidelines consider it a solid fat that they recommend Americans reduce, along with added sugars.
“As long as you keep the amount of saturated fat to less than 10% of calories, the choice is up to you.”
What We Can Learn From All This
This does not mean that Dr. Mercola's and Dr. Bronner's claims are incorrect. They are simply illegal because the FDA says so. Essentially, the coconut oil “controversy” with the FDA is a matter of control, supposed illegal “drug claims,” and has nothing to do with the actual ability of coconut oil to help people.
The key takeaway is that we all need to be good students. We need to read everything with a discerning eye, plus we should always do what's right for our health, regardless of what the “experts” may say.