Often, we are told how bad saturated fats are for our health. Whether it is by our doctors or news articles, we are sold just how bad coconut oil is because it is a source of artery-clogging saturated fat.
Well, coconut oil has been criticized when it is actually one of the good fats. It has been used in hospital formulas to feed critically ill patients and is a major component of baby formulas because it provides the same nutrient value as human breast milk. Coconut oil is used to treat a number of common illnesses and considered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be a safe, natural food.
It was discovered by the people that live in the Islands of the South Pacific that these natives were robust and healthy eating traditional native diets. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis are almost unheard of, but when they abandon their traditional diets for the Western foods, they find that their health deteriorates, and the more the Pacific natives move away from the diet of their ancestors, the closer they come to the diseases of the West like diabetes, gout, obesity, and atherosclerosis. Time and time again, we are told to limit our fat intake to reduce the risk of heart disease and should consume no more than 30% of our total calorie intake per day.
However, the Polynesian people consume large quantities of fat in the form of coconut oil, as much as 60% of their total calorie intake.
What people do not understand is that there are many types of saturated fats and they affect the body differently. The plant source that is found in coconut oil is different from what is found in animal products.
Coconut oil is used to treat patients that have digestive and malabsorption problems. It is commonly given to infants and small children so that they can digest their fat. Studies show that coconut oil helps to support and strengthen the immune system. The difference is the nature of the fat molecule, which is found in coconut oil. The molecules of all fats and oils are called fatty acids. There are two methods of classifying fatty acids. One is based on the amount of saturation found within fats and oils (saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated). Another way of classifying fats is based on the molecular size or length of the carbon chain within each fatty acid. Within fatty acids there are long chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached. They are known as short chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), and long chain fatty acids (LCFA). Coconut oil is mostly composed of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), also known as medium chain triglycerides (MCT).
The majority of fats and oils found in our diets, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from animals or plant source which are comprised of long chain fatty acids (LCFA). Anywhere from 98 to 100% of all the fatty acids consumed are LCFA.