Coconut Oil and Diabetes
Although diabetics are encouraged to avoid or limit fats and especially saturated fats from animal products, experts are now telling us that coconut oil is one fat that can safely help regulate blood glucose levels and protect against insulin resistance.
The most important fact regarding coconut oil is that it is made up of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) rather than long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs). A recent study published by The American Diabetes Association, concluded that, "dietary supplementation with MCFA may"be beneficial for preventing obesity and peripheral insulin resistance". MCFAs are said to be easily digestible and helpful in weight loss as they can actually stimulate the body’s metabolism of fats. In fact an article published in The Journal of the Indian Medical Association recommended increasing coconut oil to prevent diabetes.
In addition to the benefits associated with diabetes and weight loss, coconut oil has also been touted to be good for the heart, supportive to a healthy immune system (due to the lauric acid content, which is also found in breast milk), beneficial to the thyroid gland, helpful in the prevention of fungus, bacteria and viral infections, energy enhancing and a great skin care product.
LCFAs in contrast are found in most vegetable and seed oils and are not only difficult to break down and digest, but also more likely to be stored as fat while putting greater demand on the pancreas and liver. Additionally, while there are several great monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils such as olive, sesame, sunflower and flax; when cooking with these or other vegetable oils, you run the risk of oxidative damage, which forms toxic fats that can be damaging to cell function. Coconut oil on the other hand is a plant-based saturated fat that is safe to cook with, as it doesn’t incur any heat-induced damage.
Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats are actually important for our cells and bones. Some experts say that they also help us to retain omega 3 fatty acids to balance the omega 3/6 ratio. As we already get more than enough omega-6 from the polyunsaturated fats found in sunflower, corn, soy, canola, and safflower oils, its important that we limit the use of these oils and increase our consumption of omega 3, which is primarily found in flax and fish oil. Research shows that balancing this ratio can provide extensive health benefits and preventative care.
For vegans, the use of coconut oil as a saturated fat appears to provide no cholesterol-related risk. However, if you are already consuming saturated fats from animal sources, some feel it’s best to limit your coconut oil consumption to 1-2 Tbsp per day. As each person is different in his or her response to fats, it’s imperative that you determine what is best for you.
-The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil by Bruce Fife
-The American Diabetes Association
-Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
-There is a Cure for Diabetes: The Tree of Life 21-Day+ Program by Gabriel Cousens
Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.