What Are the Health Benefits and Side Effects of Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil?

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Benefits attributed to coconut oil are numerous. Topically, it's used as treatment for dry skin and hair and as an antibacterial treatment for conditions such as burns, cuts, fungal infections and acne. Internally, improved digestion, protection against liver and kidney disease and other benefits are linked to coconut oil. Although side effects are few, they warrant consideration. Choosing organic, extra-virgin coconut oil is important. The term “organic” means the oil is free of chemicals and pesticides, and “extra virgin” means that it undergoes minimal processing, retaining more nutrients and natural taste.

Osteoporosis Prevention

Organic, extra-virgin coconut oil is rich in antioxidants, which have been used in the treatment of osteoporosis. Antioxidants are powerful substances that help protect your body from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage healthy cells. An article published in "Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine" in September 2012 noted that a study found that antioxidant-rich virgin coconut oil in the diet was effective in preventing bone loss in osteoporosis and in maintaining bone structure.

Protection Against Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease attacks the brain's nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory as well as cognitive and language skills. Consuming coconut oil may help prevent brain cell deterioration and Alzheimer's disease. A study that investigated dietary supplementation's effect on aging and brain nerve cell degeneration revealed that coconut oil reduces changes in cell membranes and has a beneficial effect on nerve cells, according to an article published in the "Journal of Alzheimer's Disease" in January 2014.

Heart Health Consideration

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, providing 12 grams in every tablespoon. That is 60 percent of the daily value set by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Although experts agree that saturated fat is linked to cardiovascular disease, studies are shedding new light on the saturated fat in coconut oil. An article published in "The Ceylon Medical Journal" in June 2006 noted the belief that coconut oil may contribute to heart disease needs further consideration. The study indicates that because of structure and metabolism differences, saturated coconut fat differs from animal saturated fat and may not have the same harmful effect on heart health.

Side Effects

Coconut oil is typically well tolerated, according to the NYU Langone Medical Center. Some people, however, may experience bloating and stomach discomfort after eating coconut oil. Applying coconut oil to your skin is generally considered safe, but local skin irritation is possible. Because coconut oil is high in fat, it is calorie-dense. A 1-tablespoon serving of coconut oil contains 117 calories. Eating large amounts of fat could lead to excess calorie consumption and cause weight gain.