Antioxidants in Coconut Oil
09-Jun-2011, Dr Linda Kennedy
Janey Lee Grace www.janeyleegrace.com
Antioxidants and Free radicals
Antioxidants are intimately involved in the prevention of cell damage which causes a variety of diseases such as cancer, aging and heart diseases etc.
Free radicals are groups of atoms which can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once formed free radicals can start chain reactions which damage cell components such as DNA, or the cell membrane. As a result cells may die or function incorrectly.
There is a defensive system called antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules which can fight free radicals and terminate them before cell components are damaged. However, low levels of antioxidants, or inhibition of the antioxidant enzymes, causes oxidative stress and may damage or kill cells.
Antioxidants in coconut oil
It is well established that coconut oil is high in antioxidants, sometimes referred to as phytonutrients and helps to prevent free radical damage to the body. This strong antioxidant capacity is primarily due to two particular compounds ferulic acid and p-coumaric acid (Marina 2008).
Ferulic acid is found in seeds and leaves and is a major component of fruits and some vegetables. Ferulic acid has a number of different effects on the body. Ferulic acid decreases inflammation and has anti-tumor properties. Ferulic acid also lowers blood glucose levels, which is an advantage for insulin resistant individuals. Next, this compound prevents cell death, which results in a slower aging process.
Ferulic acid also protects the liver during alcohol ingestion by warding off free radicals. Since free radicals are also associated with age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, ferulic acid also has a role in the prevention of these disorders. Ferulic acid can actually reverse nicotine damage in the lungs caused by chronic smoking. Ferulic acid lowers blood pressure by causing dilation of the blood vessels. Finally, ferulic acid inhibits plaque buildup in arteries and improves the lipid profile (lower bad cholesterol, higher good cholesterol).
p-Coumaric acid is the second potent antioxidant contained in coconut oil. This compound is widely found in fruits, vegetables, and tea. p-Coumaric acid effectively lowers LDL cholesterol and prevents plaque buildup in artery walls by reducing platelet stickiness. Furthermore, there is evidence that this compound can combat the HIV virus.
Collectively, these two compounds are responsible for over 80% of the antioxidant capacity of coconut oil. While ferulic acid and p-Coumaric acid are extremely potent individually, they have a synergistic effect when found in combination like in coconut oil. In fact, coconut oil has such strong antioxidant abilities that is has been used to treat a variety of health problems. This is not to mention the rich natural vitamin content of coconut oil as well.
Obese women who supplemented their diet with only 30 milliliters of coconut oil each day for 12 weeks had an improved lipid profile compared to women who consumed the same amount of soybean oil (Assunção 2009). Coconut oil shrinks the prostate gland in benign prostatic hyperplasia (de Lourdes Arruzazabala 2007). Coconut oil is also a great skin moisturizer and an effective treatment for xerosis, a condition in which the skin is dry, scaly, and itchy (Agero 2004). Lastly, coconut oil lowers blood glucose levels and raises insulin levels, which makes it a good supplement for diabetic patients (Zulet 1999).
With all of the health benefits that can be attained from coconut oil, some people may refrain from oils in general for fear of gaining weight. Luckily, you only need to consume 1 to 2 tablespoons per day to reap the benefits of coconut oil. While this amount of coconut oil contains about 250 calories, little, if any, of these calories will be stored as fat. The fat in coconut oil is comprised largely of medium-chain fatty acids, which are burned quickly and actually raise the metabolic rate. In fact, in the same study of obese women, those who consumed coconut oil had a lower body mass index and a smaller waist circumference after 12 weeks of supplementation.
Overall, coconut oil is an effective supplement to the diet of anyone who would like to prevent chronic conditions caused by free radicals.
Dr. Linda Kennedy MS SLP ND: Helps her patients achieve a healthy equilibrium through proper lifestyle and nutrition. Her private laboratory produces custom dietary supplements for her patients to include whole food nutritional products and immune system modulators. She packs a solid educational background with degrees in organic chemistry, psychology and a Masters in communication sciences and disorders. She sports a diverse work history including experience and expertise in acute care neuro-rehab services, special education, autism support and therapy, spinal cord injuries, senior neuro rehabilitation, and oncology support services. She currently counsels both patients and colleagues in the area of natural health care.