Everyone has heard the hype. Miranda Kerr can’t go a day without it, Angelina Jolie puts it in her breakfast and Gwyneth Paltrow swills it around her mouth for whiter teeth. But as the reputation behind coconut oil’s uses continues to skyrocket, is there any truth behind its health claims?
First things first, it’s important to know that not all coconut oil is created equal. It turns out that extra virgin, cold pressed and unrefined coconut oil is what everyone is hyping about, not its processed cousin. For the oil to be considered as the ‘miracle cure’ it must be developed in a certain way that retains all of its chemical compounds. But there is more to it than that, so let’s investigate:
Claim 1: It Helps You Lose Weight
We all want that bikini body, but will coconut oil get us there? One of the benefits that coconut oil fanatics swear by is that it helps reduce visceral belly fat, and there is a study on this. It looked at 40 women and compared the efficacy of coconut oil to soybean oil, finding that the coconut oil group had decreased waist circumference (belly fat) while the soybean oil actually had a mild increase in belly fat.
This study does argue in the favour of coconut oil, but the fact it only looked at a sample group of 40 women doesn’t make it that groundbreaking. If it’s going to put the argument to bed, it needs to include a bigger sample size.
Claim 2: It Makes Your Teeth Whiter
Is swishing oil around your mouth really going to make your teeth whiter? There are quite a few studies out there suggesting that it helps keep your mouth healthy and also helps fight off harmful bacteria. But while this will play its part in your quest for pearly whites, it’s no reason to down your toothbrush!
Claim 3: It’s Good For Your Heart and Cholesterol
We’ve all heard that fats are bad for our cholesterol, but according to a recent study this isn’t true for all of them. There are three types of fatty acids (aka triglycerides) which are short-chain, medium-chain and long-chain; the long ones are unhealthy.
Coconut oil is made up predominantly of the medium type and contains a great deal of lauric acid, which some scientists think is special. So much so that one study found it positively affects cholesterol.
Claim 4: It Protects and Rejuvenates Hair
One of the most popular uses of coconut oil is to apply it to your hair. Many argue that it rejuvenates, protects and moisturizers the hair but where’s the evidence? Well in 2003 a study found that coconut oil has a ‘high affinity’ for hair protein and actually penetrates inside the hair shaft. Although this isn’t a breakthrough as oils have been used in hair care for quite some time.
Claim 5: It Heals Skin Conditions
As an oil no-one can argue it isn’t a natural moisturiser, but with claims arguing that it can prevent stretch marks, get rid of cellulite and cure certain ailments – is it all going a bit too far? Well, coconut oil has proven anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antibacterial effects, which does make it a useful oil to have at hand – but it may be a bit of a reach to assume it can turn your skin as good as new.
For example, there is some evidence for its management of Xerosis, Psoriasis and Eczema, but there’s little evidence suggesting it will cure stretch marks or get rid of scars. But with that being said, some do argue that oils are a good place to start with both of those problems.
The Bottom Line
Although we shouldn’t blindly accept the media’s hype about the next new health fad, it seems that coconut oil does give a good up a good argument and it gets the almighty seal of approval from the professionals. That being said, it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise because that’s what matters most!