Coconut oil nutrition information: Coconut oil is a healthy fat and superfood with many special properties, including antioxidant, metabolic, and antimicrobial benefits. More here on coconut oil benefits.
The benefits are due to its fatty acid composition.
Every oil or fat has a different composition of fatty acids. While every oil or fat is composed of fatty acids, each oil contains different fatty acids in different proportions.
Coconut oil contains about 64% medium chain fatty acids. Medium chain fatty acids, which have unique benefits, are elsewhere found in mother's milk and palm kernel oil, but not at all in common oils such as corn oil, soybean oil, olive oil, or canola oil.
Coconut oil also has a high percentage of myristic acid, a long chain fatty acid that is important for kidney function.
The Fatty Acid Composition of Coconut Oil
Source: Coconut Cures, by Bruce Fife, attributed to the Proceedings of the World Conference on Lauric Oils
Short Chain Fatty Acids
Caproic Acid: 0.5%
Medium Chain Fatty Acids
Caprylic Acid: 7.8%
Capric Acid: 6.7%
Lauric Acid: 47.5%
Long Chain Fatty Acids
Myristic Acid: 18.1%
Palmitic Acid: 8.8%
Stearic Acid: 2.6%
Arachidic Acid: 0.1%
Oleic Acid: 6.2%
Linolenic Acid: 1.6%
The medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil are used directly by the body for energy.
Coconut oil is broken down in the stomach into fatty acids. The medium chain fatty acids go to the liver through the portal vein. The liver uses them for energy. These kinds of fatty acids never go to the bloodstream, and thus are not found in arterial plaque.
Two medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil in abundance are:
The medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil are responsible for many of the coconut oil benefits.
Coconut oil also contains myristic acid, a long-chain fatty acid.
Myristic acid is necessary for kidney function and is an element in kidney fat.
Of food fats and oils, oconut oil is the most highly saturated.
Coconut Oil: Composition By Saturation
Saturated fats have a molecular structure that gives the fat stability. These fats do not easily go rancid.
Bruce Fife in Coconut Cures notes that coconut oil lasts on the shelf for several years; he was aware of oil stored safely for fifteen years.
Coconut oil is also stable when heated: it does not deteriorate into an unhealthy oil when used in cooking.
It is so stable that even refined coconut oil is still healthy. That is, the high heat used in refining does not spoil the oil.
Polyunsaturated oils are very unstable and easily become rancid, before, during, and after refining. According to Bruce Fife, you cannot taste the rancidity!
Corn oil and soybean oil are each 60% polyunsaturated. It is shocking to think that the processed corn oil used over a lifetime has been rancid!
There is evidence that free radicals from oxidized polyunsaturated oils are elements in the development of cancer and heart disease.
The long chain fatty acids found in polyunsaturated oils are digested differently than the medium chain fatty acids. Long chain fatty acids are digested in the intestine by digestive enzymes and bile and then are absorbed into the bloodstream.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:
Medium-Chain Triglycerides: An Update
Eat Fat Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats by Mary Enig, PhD., and Sally Fallon - Healthy fats to lose weight and promote health.
The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife - Introduction to coconut oil.
Coconut Cures by Bruce Fife - All about coconut oil and coconut products.