Saturday, 23 November 2013

Coconut Craze

The use of coconut oil has been said to do many impressive things for the body, but is this backed up by science or is it just another fad?

First let’s look at some brief history – coconut oil is edible, and has been consumed as part of the regular diet in tropical places for years. Some studies have shown that the people in these areas are more generally in good health, and don’t suffer as much from the diseases that we see in our western nations, where coconut oil is rarely consumed.

This surprised me as coconuts are high in saturated fat (the bad fat), but it has been shown that the increases in HDL cholesterol are higher than the increases in LDL cholesterol – which may actually mean improvements in the blood cholesterol profile.

Interesting targets for coconut oil, especially for this time of the year, are the skin and hair. With the winter months bringing dry, crisp and brutal weather it’s increasingly important for us to protect these areas. 

In a study done years ago, they tested coconut oil versus sunflower oil as well as mineral oil on different types of hair. The study showed that among the three, coconut oil had the best results on decreasing the loss of protein from damaged or non-damaged hair. The authors postulate that this is because of the saturated fat content (specifically lauric acid) which gives coconut oil a high affinity for hair proteins. Due to its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, it is able to get within the hair shaft and affect the proteins. This is not the case for bulky sunflower oil or mineral oil which has no affinity for protein and is the reason they do not change the actual health of your hair in terms of preventing protein loss.

It has also been shown that coconut oil has great moisturizing properties when applied directly to the skin, but these properties are comparable to the active control product, mineral oil.

So, coconut oil may be worth a try, but remember to do your research about any product you think sounds interesting before buying into the “hype” as it might just be the new fad of the month.

Keep your skin and hair healthy this winter!

Karine Shirazi

4th Year BSc NANS

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