Benefits Of Coconut Oil: Myth Or Magic?

The last couple of years have seen coconut oil – in fact, coconut everything – take the world by storm. Coconut oil is flying off shelves, and its benefits are being touted for everything, from whitening teeth to weight loss and wood conditioning to moisturizing both hair and body.

Still, the real benefits of coconut oil are somewhat less cut-and-dry than some sellers would have you believe, according to Dr. Greg Feinsinger of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, who recently wrote about the topic for the Post Independent.

“People who profit from selling coconut oil and other coconut products (other than coconut water, which is OK), would have you believe that coconut is the new miracle food, curing everything from Alzheimer’s to cardiovascular disease. But this hype is not based on science.”

So what is the science behind the current coconut oil craze? According to the Guardian, despite its purported benefits, coconut oil is a saturated fat, which might not make it the “heart-clogging evil” it was once labeled to be, but is still best to consume in moderation.

As for claims that coconut oil can help lower cholesterol, aid in blood glucose regulation, encourage weight loss, prevent strokes, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, the Guardian reports that a recent review of studies shows that saturated fats actually work to increase the levels of both good and bad types of cholesterol. And when it comes to those weight loss claims, once again it appears that coconut oil might not be the best go-to supplement.

“The oil is predominantly a medium-chain triglyceride that, proponents state might carry benefits for weight loss, but this claim has not been shown in human studies.”

The same reportedly holds true for claims that coconut oil can help regulate blood glucose, prevent strokes, and slow down Alzheimer’s. While it would be nice if the claims were true, the reality is that all of these benefits have yet to be proven in studies done on people. Duane Mellor, an assistant professor in dietetics at the University of Nottingham, told the Guardian that little evidence exists that suggests adding any type of super food to your diet will result in a miracle.

“Whether it’s coconut oil, chia seeds or apple cider vinegar, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that if you top your diet with any ‘miracle’ or special food that you’ll get any of the promised effects. Probably best to enjoy a little coconut oil in a Thai dish occasionally rather than using it daily!”

So, what about those other claims about the antibacterial, moisturizing, and restorative effects on coconut oil on everything from hair to skin to furniture? Well, it turns out those things may have some serious merit, depending on your skin and/or hair type, as well as the kind of furniture you’re slathering it on.

According to Bustle, the long list of celebs who have publicly espoused the many beauty benefits of coconut oil includes Emma Stone, Miranda Kerr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Khloe Kardashian, and Mandy Moore, to name only a few. And just this week Zendaya revealed on Instagram that she uses a coconut oil mask to rejuvenate her signature ultra-shiny locks.

And finally, coconut oil can renew wood. According to Living Traditionally, by mixing it with a bit of lemon juice, anyone can create an easy to use homemade furniture polish that also happens to be non-toxic, works better to bring out shine, and costs less than most of the products available at retail outlets.

[Image from ShutterStock]