Coconut Oil

1 January 2017

The United States Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, International College of Nutrition, the United States Department of Health and Human Services,  American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, British National Health Service, and Dietitians of Canada recommend against the consumption of significant amounts of refined/hydrogenated coconut oil due to its high levels of saturated fat.

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Advocacy against coconut and palm oils in the 1970s and 80s due to their perceived danger as a saturated fat caused companies to instead substitute trans fats, unaware of their health-damaging effects. Coconut oil contains a large proportion of lauric acid, a saturated fat that raises blood cholesterol levels by increasing the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol that is also found in significant amounts in laurel oil, palm kernel oil (not to be confused with palm oil), human and animal breast milk and sebaceous gland secretions. This may create a more favourable blood cholesterol profile, though it is unclear if coconut oil may promote atherosclerosis through other pathways.

Because much of the saturated fat of coconut oil is in the form of lauric acid, coconut oil may be a better alternative to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil when solid fats are required.  In addition, virgin coconut oil is composed mainly of medium-chain triglycerides, which may not carry the same risks as other saturated fats. Early studies on the health effects of coconut oil used partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which creates trans fats, and not virgin coconut oil, which has a different health risk profile. A repellent made from coconut oil can be used to prevent tungiasis-causing sand fleas from invading the body.

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