Coconut oil and its fancier cousin, virgin coconut oil (VCO), have been making waves in the health food world.  They’re often touted as miracle workers with numerous benefits. But amidst the hype, there’s a fair share of misconceptions. In this article, we’re here to set the record straight on five common myths about coconut oil and VCO.

1. Myth: Coconut Oil Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease

Some people claim that coconut oil can work wonders for Alzheimer’s patients and there are many people taking coconut oil thinking it can prevent Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).  But the truth is a bit more nuanced.

There are two confusions (or perhaps misrepresentation by the coconut oil marketer) here. 

Firstly, the research study on the AD used oil supplement which is 100% MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides). This is a type of oil with fewer carbon molecules in them, C=8, C=10.

However, coconut oil (virgin or not) only consists of 61% MCT.  And the MCT profile in coconut oil is different from the MCT supplement used in the research study. 

It is like a real Iphone vs a XYZ phone that look like Iphone but use different chipsets and software. You won’t get the same performance.

Secondly, the study showed that these oils MIGHT help improve general cognitive function of AD patients. However, the clinical study is not about preventing AD for healthy adults.  Improving symptoms and prevent disease are two different things.  

We all know that wearing spectacles helps correct near-sightedness. 
However, if you do not have near-sightedness, you shouldn’t wear spectacles to prevent it. In fact, if you will feel giddy if you do so.

Same logic applies here.

Furthermore, a recent study in 2023 indicated that MCT only worked better for certain group of AD patients. These are patients without a gene APOE ɛ4 allele.

If AD patients had APOE ɛ4 allele, then MCT may not work that well. 

So, if you are feeding your parent coconut oil and the dementia symptoms seem not improving, this may be one of the reasons.   

In short, AD is a more complex health issue than just relying on a magic oil.

Bear in mind, coconut oil has 83% saturated fat.  And saturated fat can raise your bad cholesterol, LDL (we shall discuss this in the next point soon).

Image - coconut oil saturated fat conent.

So, if you are taking two spoonful or coconut oil (virgin type or not) every day for the preventive benefit, you may want to think twice again. 

It is like somebody said pineapple juice might help digestion, and you are taking four slices of Hawaiian pizza just because there are pineapple cubes on the pizza.  

Before you can reap any AD preventive properties, you probably have taken too much a cholesterol raising saturated fat.  This leads to our second point.

Myth 2: Coconut oil is an MCT and it is not a bad saturated fat
Coconut oil’s fame often comes from its medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which the proponent claimed that this saturated fat is not a bad one. 
However, this is not true.  At most, it is a half-truth.

Here’s the catch: only 61% of coconut oil is MCTs (C=8, 10 & 12), and out of the 61%, majority is a longer type of MCT (C=12), the lauric acid. 

Lauric acid does not behave exactly like a MCT, but more like a long chain fatty acid.  It is not absorbed as fast as its shorter cousins, and it could raise bad cholesterol.

Image - coconut oil compositions - long chain and medium chain triglycerides percentage.

So, if you look at the nutritional content of the coconut oil, close to 74% are Lauric, Myristic and Palmitic oil. These oils tend to raise your bad cholesterol, at different degree.  So, for the benefit of 15% (Capric and Caprylic), you are ingesting 74% of cholesterol raising fat. Not a good deal, isn’t it? 

Remember the pineapple juice vs Hawaiian pizza analogy?

3. Myth: Coconut Oil Improves Heart Health

This is another half-truth. 

Contrary to popular belief, coconut oil can mess with your cholesterol levels. Even though it may raise your HDL (good cholesterol), it also raises LDL (bad cholesterol).

A large scale meta-analysis showed that coconut oil consumption increase bad cholesterol (LDL) by10.47 mg/dL and good cholesterol by 4.00 mg/dL.

Studies had shown that coconut oil is better than animal fat, but performs worse than unsaturated fat, such as olive oil, canola oil or flaxseed oil. 

So, do not be generous when using coconut oil.  Mono and polyunsaturated fat are your better bet.

4. Myth: Coconut Oil Helps Significant Weight Loss

Coconut oil’s MCTs might make you feel full faster, but relying solely on it for weight loss? Not so fast.

Statistically, it may help you lose 0.5kg. However, 0.5kg is like a bottle of mineral water.

You can achieve a better result with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and portion control.

There’s no magic bullet, coconut oil included.

5. Myth: Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) is Much Better Than Coconut Oil (CO)

VCO might sound fancier, but is it significantly better than regular coconut oil? Not really.  

At most, the process of producing VCO helps retain the flavor and some polyphenols.  However, this content is just a small percentage of the VCO and it also varies from one producer to another.  

In fact, CO and VCO contain similar fatty acids and offer comparable health benefits or the lack of it. Claims that VCO is vastly superior are more marketing than science.

In summary, coconut oil and VCO can be part of your cooking for the flavor and texture. Applying it onto your skin and hair probably maybe helpful.  

Beyond that, explore healthier options.  So, enjoy your coconut oil, but don’t expect it to work miracles.

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