Coconut oil is extracted from the fruit of the coconut palm. Although not clinically proven, its health benefits are widely recognized. According to its advocates, it can significantly improve skin and hair quality, as well as your cardiac, thyroid and digestive health. It is also believed to fight free radicals, which lead to premature aging. On the other hand, its high content of saturated fat may lead to health problems in some people, and these normally include weight gain, total cholesterol increase, intestinal distress, allergic reactions etc. Read on to find out what the potential side effects of coconut oil are and how to avoid these.
1. Weight Gain
As mentioned above, coconut oil is abundant in saturated fat, which not only increases total cholesterol levels, but according to some health experts, also leads to weight gain. Although this is not scientifically proven, it’s highly recommended to avoid consuming coconut oil in large quantities.
2. Gastro-Intestinal Distress
According to Dr. Bruce Fife, Ph.D., and author of “Virgin Coconut Oil: Nature’s Miracle Medicine,” coconut oil can be consumed as an internal antibacterial and anti-microbial agent.
Therefore, the anti-fungal and antibacterial properties of coconut oil are indisputable. Yet, at times, the process of destroying bacteria, viruses and other microbes in the body can give some temporary side effects. In other words, the consumption of coconut oil can result in diarrhea as well as other symptoms linked to IBS.
3. High Cholesterol Levels
Unlike the well- known claims that coconut oil is beneficial for your cardiac health, there are indications that it actually increase total cholesterol in the body, including “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Both the FDA and the AMA (American Medical Association) advise that coconut oil should be avoided, even though expert opinions are divided as to whether or not coconut oil intake increases LDL cholesterol.
Saturated fatty acids are identified as the main dietary cause of high cholesterol by the American Heart Association. These fatty acids amass in the body and stick to arterial walls thus causing artery blockage and reduced blood flow. This in turn causes hypertension, and since the blood flow is compromised, blood clots can potentially clog the arteries and lead to a heart attack.
Nevertheless, contradictory evidence emerges claiming that coconut oil may in fact increase “good” cholesterol and have little to no effect on total or “bad” cholesterol levels.
Namely, some nutritionists in an article published in the US News and World Report claim that the fatty acids in coconut oil are predominantly medium-chain triglycerides, which are metabolized much more easily than the long-chain triglycerides found in other saturated fat sources.
Also, the article refers to facts that this particular triglyceride structure may only increase “good” cholesterol, or it may not increase cholesterol at all.
4. Die-Off Effect
This is just another side effect that coconut oil potentially causes according to Dr. Bruce Fife. A “die-off” effect occurs when coconut oil is used for treatment of fungal infections. What happens is that the anti-fungal agents in coconut oil kill a lot of fungal organisms, thus releasing toxins into the blood stream, which in turn trigger flu-like symptoms. However, these symptoms are only temporary and disappear within a few days.
5. Allergic Reaction
Allergic reactions to coconut oil are also possible, even though they are rare. In fact, people allergic to hazelnuts may also develop a cross-reactivity to coconuts.
This allergic reaction can vary in severity from skin sensitivity and hives to a more serious and potentially deadly anaphylaxis, which is a sudden, whole-body allergic reaction which can be potentially life-threatening. However, this reaction is very rare and is only found in people who are hypersensitive to the fruit.
Avoid the side effects of coconut oil
Coconut oil is, in general, safe for most people if used in amounts commonly found in foods. It is also considered safe when applied topically in combination with other herbs.
However, always be careful when choosing coconut oil, since coconut oils, either organic or virgin, with the certified seal of approval from the United States Department of agriculture for organic production, are the best choice if you want to reduce or eliminate coconut oil side effects.
On the other hand, unrefined and hydrogenated coconut oils can actually cause some health implications. The hydrogenation method can produce trans fats, which have negative effects upon your health.
People with allergies to other foods, especially nuts, should be more careful. It is recommended that you test yourself to coconut oil sensitivity.
Another very important thing is to take coconut oil in smaller amounts at the beginning, and then gradually work your way up to a full dose as recommended by your doctor or nutritionist.