oil has some 12 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, compared with
about seven grams for butter, according to the USDA's food-nutrient
database. Studies, though, have found residents of South Pacific
islands who eat a lot of coconut oil have very low levels of heart
studies can't be applied to Americans as Pacific Islanders are far more
active on average and eat an entirely different diet, said George
Blackburn, associate director of the Division of Nutrition at Harvard
Medical School in Cambridge, Mass. Heart-wise, however, coconut oil is
"better than butter" and other animal fats because it has no
cholesterol, he adds.
of the appeal of coconut oil, says Glen D. Lawrence, a professor of
chemistry and biochemistry at Long Island University in Brooklyn, is
that it has "medium-chain fatty acids," a designation referring to the
number of carbon atoms in the fat. Most of the fats Americans eat have
long-chain fatty acids, Dr. Lawrence says.
medium-chain fatty acids are easier to digest, particularly for people
with gastrointestinal ailments, scientists say. And the body burns them
quickly, which some researchers think may make them good energy for
oil's fatty acids, including lauric acid, kill a wide range of viruses
and bacteria in the laboratory, Dr. Lawrence says, but so far it's
unknown if the same thing will happen in the body after it is ingested.
research on coconut oil and Alzheimer's disease shows a possible
protective effect on neurons. In a study published earlier this year in
the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Canadian researchers found mouse
brain cells treated with coconut oil were somewhat protected from the
toxic effects of amyloid proteins, which build up in the brains of
oil, imported primarily from the Philippines, has a "slight coconut
taste and aroma" in its "virgin" form, pressed from coconuts and
otherwise unprocessed, says Bruce Fife, a Colorado Springs, Colo.,
naturopathic doctor who has written several books on coconut oil and
other coconut products. If it is refined using chemical processes, it
loses its flavor, he says.
of the scientific research has been done on refined oil, so there's no
evidence virgin oil is better unless you prefer the taste, Dr. Fife
adds. Both types are available in stores.
oil is typically sold as a solid. Viva Labs Inc., Valley Cottage, N.Y.,
says its virgin, organic oil, which is $11 for a 1-pound tub, is solid
below about 72 to 74 degrees.