Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the high-fat coconut fruit. It has long been the main source of dietary fat for people of the tropics and island countries. It has an incredibly high smoking point, at 360 degrees Fahrenheit, so that no harmful byproduct is produced during deep frying and high-temperature cooking.
There are a lot of coconut oil applications in medicine and cosmetics. It is used as a lubricant and a skin and hair moisturizer and softener. However intake of coconut oil does contain some serious health hazards. There is an overwhelmingly high obesity rate in island populations on high-coconut diet. There is also higher prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in these countries. The main cause of these increased disease risks has been attributed to the high saturated fat content in coconut oil.
Saturated Fat and Blood Cholesterol
Almost every cardiologist and nutritionist will tell you to minimize saturated fat intake through diet. Saturated fat has been accused to increase your blood fat concentration, namely the triglyceride and the low density lipoproteins (LDL). Higher amount of bad cholesterol can increase your potential of forming blood clots and plaques, which in turn constricts your blood flow and heightens your chance of strokes and heart attacks.
There are also some who argue that dietary saturated fat does not raise your blood cholesterol. But these findings are few and isolated. In contrast, there is stronger evidence that if you replace the saturated fat in your diet with mono or polyunsaturated fat, you will have significantly lower risk of sudden cardiac arrest, heart failure and other fatal consequences.
Saturated Fat is Highly Inflammatory
The other hazard factor of saturated fat intake is that it can be highly damaging to your cells and tissues. Free radicals attack your cell membranes, causing injuries, inflammations and cell deaths. Inflammation of the blood vessel further constricts your circulation, preventing oxygen delivery to your brain, organs and muscles. Damaged blood vessels are also highly susceptible to hemorrhage and form aneurysm. Inflamed heart muscles are much weaker and likely to burn out. These adversities are even more dangerous if you have a preexisting heart condition, such as hyperlipidemia, cardiomyopathy, or congenital heart defects. High intake of saturated fat can significantly heighten your risk of myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure and other life-threatening attacks.
Coconut Oil in Foods
If you have a higher than normal risk of heart disease, you should avoid ingesting coconut oil. Besides virgin extractions, coconut fat is also hidden in a variety of popular food products. Because of its low susceptibility to oxidation and rancidity, coconut oil is often added to products like nondairy creamers, cookies and popcorn to prolong their shelf life. Any product made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil may contain coconut oil.
Different levels of coconut fat are also found in food products made with coconut milk. Some coconut milk contains as much as 17% fat per volume. Coconut cream used for making beverages and desserts has even higher fat content. Lots of Thai and Southeast Asian cuisines call for coconut milk or cream in their recipes.