Over 70% of the saturated fatty acids present in coconut oil are short and medium chain containing less than 12 carbon atoms. The medium chain fatty acids(MCFA) account for 63.5% of the total fatty acids.
Lauric acid, prominent among the MCFAs present in coconut oil has qualities similar to mother's milk. When lauric acid enters human body it gets converted to monolaurin, an immunity enhancing compound.
Coconut oil's anti-microbial properties is largely due to this "miracle" ingredient called lauric acid. The body coverts lauric acid into monolauin, a disease fighting fatty acid derivative which has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
Studies undertaken by the Biochemistry department, University of Kerala, show that:
1. Does not elevate blood total cholesterol
2. Increases blood HDL cholesterol
3. Consumed along with coconut kernel lowers blood cholesterol
4. Does not elevate LDL cholesterol or LDL cholesterol / HDL cholesterol ratio
5. Decreases serum triglycerides
SATURATED FAT : with a difference
Coconut oil being a naturally saturated oil does not contain any Trans fat. Since coconut oil is naturally saturated (>90%), it does not need hydrogenation, thereby considerably reducing the chances of high blood cholesterol and high low density lipoproteins (LDL). On the other hand, it helps retain high-density lipoproteins (HDL) - the good cholesterol.
Coconut oil is a saturated fat from plant origin and cannot be equated with saturated fat from animal sources.
Coconut oil has low polyunsaturated fatty acids making it very stable and resistant to oxidation. This also makes it an excellent cooking oil, thereby protecting our cells against damage.
Saturated fats are classified into two primary categories (1) long chain fats and (2) short and medium chain fats. Medium chain fats in coconut oil are similar to fats in mothers' milk. Thus, despite the fact that saturated fats are harmful, those present in coconut oil are in a league of their own.
Coconut oil is healthy because it predominantly comprises of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) or medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which are readily metabolized in the body and converted to energy instantaneously. They are not converted into body fat or cholesterol to the degree other fats are.
The Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) undergo a faster and more complete digestion in the stomach and upper small intestine than the Long Chain Triglycerides (LCT). The products of MCT hydrolysis are absorbed into the intestinal cells almost as fast as glucose and are carried directly to the liver. The LCT on the other hand, undergoes a slow process of digestion, the products of which are then transported to the liver via the lymphatics and systemic circulation. Consequently, the LCT are distributed systematically to all parts of the body before reaching the liver. LCT are therefore more prone to be deposited as fat in the peripheral tissues or fat depots than the short and medium chain fatty acids.
Coconut oil with its Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) puts less of a demand on the enzyme production of the pancreas. This lessens the stress on the pancreas during meal time when insulin is produced most heavily, thus allowing the organ to function efficiently.
Coconut oil improves the secretion of insulin and aids in controlling blood sugar. It also helps in effective utilization of blood glucose.