Most of us were raised to believe that all tropical oils are bad. Nutritional science is showing that it is not true if the oil is NON-HYDROGENATED. In fact, peer-reviewed studies are revealing that unprocessed, non-hydrogenated virgin coconut oil may be one of the healthiest oils in the world promoting healthy weight and overall health, particularly when combined with moderate amounts of oils high in Omega 3s.
What are hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils? In essence, hydrogenated oils are fake saturated fats, where long chain polyunsaturated fats (found in high quantities in corn, soy, and safflower oils) have been converted into long chain saturated fats. Not only do long chain fatty acids make higher demands on the body for utilizing them, the body is not able to easily transform these fake saturated fats with “trans” bonds versus naturally occurring saturated fats with “cis” bonds. Hydrogenated oils precipitated the dramatic increase of seed oil consumption in the American diet at the expense of quality forms of saturated fats and Omega 3s. For a more thorough discussion, we recommend reading Dr Mary Enig’s book, “Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol.”
What are medium-chain fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides? Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are saturated fatty acids that occur between 6 to 12 carbons long. They include caprioc (C6:0), caprylic (C8:0), capric (C10:0), and lauric (C12:0) acids. MCFAs are readily utilized by the liver, which leads to greater energy expenditure and enhancement of thermogenesis. MCFAs occur naturally in butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese, with the highest quantities in coconut and palm-kernel oils. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are obtained from food sources high in MCFAs, usually coconut oil, through lipid fractionation. MCTs are usually a concentration of caprylic (C8:0) and capric (C10:0) acids because they naturally occur in small quantities, even in coconut oil. The dominant MCFA in coconut oil is lauric acid (C12:0) (found in abundance in mother’s milk), which is converted to monolaurin in the body and has many promising benefits.
MCFAs and oil blends containing MCFAs have received considerable attention for their potential in reducing abdominal obesity, which we have summarized in Table 1: Nagao and Yanagita 2010 for your convenience, based on Nagao and Yanagita (2010).
We are continuously reviewing the latest information on diet and dietary fats and oils. We are happy to help those who wish to dig deeper into the research. Below we have provided articles for your review as a starting place, which we acknowledge is by no means complete. Where possible, we have provided published scientific literature reviews and meta-analyses so you can look up additional references specific to your interests. If you are having trouble finding what you are looking for, feel free to contact us and we will help where we can.
Click on the links below to review the scientific literature.
Consequences of a high carbohydrate, low-fat diet on blood triglyceride level:
Moderately low carbohydrate diet improves “metabolic fitness”: Dr. Ronald Krauss, a long-standing Harvard-trained medical doctor and researcher, presents the physical processes behind the consequences of a high carbohydrate, low-fat diet on blood triglyceride levels vs a moderate to high fat diet. Dr. Krauss shows that a moderately low carbohydrate diet (substituting carbohydrates with fat and/or protein) improves “metabolic fitness”, including weight management, lipid predictors of cardiovascular disease, and risk for type 2 diabetes.
Refined v. Virgin Coconut Oil:
Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation: The high polyphenol content of virgin coconut oil makes it more effective in reducing LDL cholesterol and other lipid parameters and increasing HDL cholesterol than refined coconut oil.
Virgin coconut oil emerging functional food oil: Discussion of the critical differences between virgin coconut oil and refined coconut oil.
Beneficial effects of Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) and Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) on Weight Management:
Bioactive lipids in metabolic syndrome: Scientific literature review on dietary fats and oils that help with decreasing metabolic disorders such as abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension and insulin sensitivity that increase risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega 3s (like those found in flaxseed and cod liver oils), plant sterols (such as those naturally occurring in hi-oleic sunflower oil), and medium chain fatty acids (like those found in virgin coconut oil) help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
Coconut In Support of Good Health in the 21st Century: Review of the coconut oil as a functional food due its lauric and capric acid content and its potential health benefits.
Effects of Dietary Coconut Oil on the Biochemical and Anthropometric Profiles of Women Presenting Abdominal Obesity: Compared to soybean oil, coconut oil is more effective for reducing abdominal obesity and lowering risk of cardiovascular disease when deficiencies in mono- and polyunsaturated fats are absent.
Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight: Substituting dietary long chain triglycerides (e.g., soybean oil, safflower oil, canola oil) for medium chain triglycerides can help prevent weight gain and in some cases help reduce excess weight.
Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil Consumption as Part of a Weight Loss Diet Does Not Lead to an Adverse Metabolic Profile When Compared to Olive Oil: Long-term consumption of saturated fats in moderation, specifically in the form of medium chain triglyceride, does not have adverse effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Medium- versus long-chain triglycerides for 27 days increases fat oxidation and energy expenditure without resulting in changes in body composition in women: Ingesting medium chain triglycerides may promote long term weight maintenance in obese women.
Medium-chain fatty acids Functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome: Scientific literature review concludes 1) experimental studies demonstrate dietary medium chain fatty acids (found in virgin coconut oil) suppress fat deposition through enhanced thermogenesis and fat oxidation in both humans and animals, 2) MCFAs/MCTs appear to offer benefits for stabilizing insulin with type 2 diabetes in humans, and 3) the therapeutic potential of MCFAs/MCTs against metabolic syndrome and obesity is promising.
Medium-chain triglycerides: Scientific literature review investigating the potential of medium chain triglycerides and medium chain fatty acids (found in virgin coconut oil) for increasing thermogenesis, decreasing body fat, reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, stabilizing insulin levels for people with diabetes type 2, reversing intestinal inflammation, and protecting the liver from hepatotoxicity
Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity: Scientific literature review on the effects of medium chain triglycerides on reducing weight and suppressing appetite.
Review MCFA Metabolism and Energy Expenditure Obesity Treatment Implications: Medium chain fatty acids (found in virgin coconut oil), versus long chain fatty acids (found in soybean, safflower, canola oils) have potential as weight loss agents because MCFAs are absorbed more efficiently than LCFAs: MCFAs are transported in the portal blood directly to the liver, unlike LCFA which are incorporated into chylomicrons and transported through the lymphatic system. These structure-based differences continue through the processes of fat utilization; MCFAs enter the mitochondria independently of the carnitine transport system and undergo preferential oxidation.
Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil: Consumption of medium chain triglycerides as part of a weight-loss plan improves weight loss compared with olive oil and can thus be successfully included in a weight-loss diet.
Lack of Evidence Linking Consumption of Saturated Fat with Cardiovascular Disease:
Saturated fat and cardiovascular disease: The discrepency between the scientific literature dietary advice: The results, conclusions, and dietary recommendations from leading U.S. and European advisory committees do not reflect available scientific literature and are not evidence-based. The wide majority of research indicates a lack of relationship between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease.
In the face of contradictory evidence Report of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee: 2011 Dietary Guidelines fail to incorporate recent large meta-analysis that found there is no substantial evidence for concluding dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and obesity. Instead, epidemic levels of obesity in the US are more likely due to the increased consumption of carbohydrates.
Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of sautrated fat with cardiovascular disease: Twenty one (21) studies including almost 350,000 subjects were evaluated and summarized for determining the linkage between intake of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. For a follow up period of 5-23 years, only 11,000 subjects developed coronary heart disease or stroke. This meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies showed there is no significant evidence for concluding dietary saturated fat is linked to coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. Consideration of age, sex, and study quality did not change the results.
Saturated Fat and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors, Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes a Fresh Look at the Evidence: Evidence for the effects of saturated fat consumption on vascular function, insulin resistance, diabetes, and stroke is mixed, with many studies showing no clear effects, highlighting a need for further research. Public health emphasis on reducing saturated fat consumption without considering the replacement nutrient or, more importantly, the many other food-based risk factors for cardiometabolic disease is unlikely to produce substantial intended benefits.
Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease: Scientific data do not support the recommendation of replacing dietary saturated fat with carbohydrates, which can worsen dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, obesity, and high cholesterol.
Potential Beneficial Effects of VCO and MCTs on Digestive Disorders:
Dietary medium-chain triglycerides prevent chemically induced experimental colitis in rats: Medium chain triglycerides show promise for nutritional therapy of inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., Crohn’s disease and colitis) as an anti-inflammatory nutrient in the colon.
Enteral diets enriched with medium-chain triglycerides and N-3 fatty acids prevent chemically induced experimental colitis in rats: Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and Omega 3s (found in flaxseed and cod liver oils) could be effective nutritional therapy for inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., Crohn’s Disease, Colitis) due to this blend’s anti-inflammatory effects. The positive effects of Omega 3s are greater when combined with MCTs over Omega 3s administered alone.
Partial Replacement of Dietary (n-6) Fatty Acids with Medium-Chain Triglycerides Decreases the Incidence of Spontaneous Colitis in Interleukin-10-Deficient Mice: Partially replacing dietary sources of Omega 6s (found in abundance in soybean, safflower, and canola oils) with medium chain triglycerides shows therapeutic potential for reversing Crohn’s disease.
Protective Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides on the Liver and Gut in Rats Administered Endotoxin: In addition to dietary medium chain triglycerides preventing alcohol-induced liver injury, they may also prevent liver injury, gut permeability, and gut injury when in a state of endotoxemia.
Potential Beneficial Effects of Combining MCTs with Omega 3s:
Consumption of a Functional Oil Rich in Phytosterols and Medium-Chain Triglyceride Oil Improves Plasma Lipid Profiles in Men: Functional oil blend of medium chain triglycerides, Omega 3s (found in flaxseed and cod liver oils), and plant sterols (found in hi-oleic sunflower oil) is more effective than olive oil in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease in men.
Consumption of an Oil Composed of Medium Chain Triacyglycerols, Phytosterols, and N-3 Fatty Acids Improves Cardiovascular Risk Profile in Overweight Women: Functional oil blend of medium chain triglycerides, Omega 3s (found in flaxseed and cod liver oils), and plant sterols (found in hi-oleic sunflower oil) is effective in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease in women.
Potential Benefits of Tocotrienols (form of Vitamin E) found in Palm Fruit Oil:
Palm Oil-Derived Natural Vitamin E a-Tocotrienol in Brain Health and Disease: Scientific literature evaluating the therapeutic potential of tocotrienols (type of vitamin E found in abundance in palm fruit oil) for neurodegenerative disorders of the central nervous system, cancer treatment, and hypercholesterolemia.
Tocotrienols, the vitamin E of the 21st century Its potential against cancer and other chronic diseases: Scientific literature review of the therapeutic potential of tocotrienals for treating cancer, bone resorption, diabetes, and cardiovascular and neurological diseases at both preclinical and clinical levels.