The health benefits of coconut oil are related to the length of its fatty chain acids. Coconut oil is made up of medium chain fatty acids, sometimes referred to as medium chain triglycerides. These fatty acids penetrate cell membranes more quickly than long chains, without the need for special enzymes.
Medium chain fatty acids are also sent directly to the liver, without circulating through the blood stream like other fats. Here, they are immediately converted to energy instead of being stored as body fat. This process results in many other health benefits of coconut oil, including increased metabolism and weight loss.
Other health benefits of coconut oil are related to its high concentration of lauric acid. This acid is transformed into monolaurin by the body. Monolaurin is an immune boosting anti-viral, antibacterial monoglyceride which the body uses to destroy viruses such as herpes, influenza and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is commonly used in the treatment of patients infected with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
The many health benefits of coconut oil have recently been the subject of much research within the medical science community. In 2004, a study published in Clinical Biochemistry stated that coconut oil reduced cholesterol and triglycerides in laboratory animals.
Coconut oil can lower cholesterol as a direct result of its ability to stimulate the thyroid. When sufficient thyroid hormones are present in the body, cholesterol is converted by enzymes into steroids. These steroids include progesterone, deydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and pregnenolone. They are necessary to help prevent heart disease, obesity, cancer and many other degenerative diseases.
Other health benefits of coconut oil include skin and hair care. It is able to penetrate the hair shaft easily because of its low molecular weight. As a result, coconut oil can deep condition the hair and reduce protein loss.
Its antioxidant properties fight damaging free radicals in the skin. Free radicals are chemical particles that cause age spots, wrinkles and sagging of the skin as they chip away at cell walls. Coconut oil, when applied topically, reduces the production of these free radicals by penetrating the skin and creating a protective barrier against them.
Coconut oil is also used to promote healing. When applied to infections, the oil creates a chemical layer that protects from external irritants such as dust and bacteria. It is also known to expedite the repairing of damaged cells and tissues.
In order to experience all the health benefits of coconut oil, only products of the highest quality should be used. Refined, bleached and hydrogenated coconut oil will not produce beneficial effects. These chemical processes strip the oil of its naturally occurring nutrients and should be avoided.