What Is Virgin Coconut Oil?
Virgin coconut oil is the name given to oil extracted from fresh (i.e. within 24 hours) coconut palms (Cocos nucifera L.) by wet processing with minimal heat exposure.
How is Virgin Coconut Oil Produced?
Virgin coconut oil is produced from the endosperm (i.e. flesh) of mature coconuts through a temperature controlled extraction process, which retains most of the biologically active components like vitamins, phytosterols and polyphenols. This is quite different from the traditional processing of coconut oil from dried copra that has been exposed to very high temperature or sunlight to remove moisture. This traditional form of processing is thought to inactivate many of the biologically active minor components in coconut oil.
Virgin Coconut Oil Benefits
Contrary to popular belief or logic, virgin coconut oil has many proven health benefits, particularly for cardiovascular health. This is despite its very high content of saturated fat. The secret of virgin coconut oils health benefits lies in its specific fatty acid and polyphenol content. Just like coconut oil, virgin coconut oil is high in medium chain fatty acids, but what sets it apart from coconut oil is its ‘non-fatty acid’ content. Virgin coconut oil is rich is biologically active antioxidant-like components such as polyphenols, tocopherols and phytosterols. Studies comparing the two forms of coconut oil have shown that virgin coconut oil possesses significant hypolipidaemic, antioxidant and antithrombotic effects compared with coconut oil1-3. One other disease that may benefit from virgin coconut oil is osteoporosis7. A study in rats has shown that regular consumption of virgin coconut oil was effective in maintaining bone structure and preventing bone loss in an estrogen-deficient rat model4. These effects were mediated by virgin coconut oils rich in antioxidant content4.
Virgin Coconut Oil Benefits for Cardiovascular Health
Two recent studies in rat models4, 5 have found that compared with normal coconut oil, virgin coconut oil has more powerful effects on fatty acid metabolism in the liver. These effects include reducing fatty acid synthesis and increasing fatty acid oxidation; both of which are important factors for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Another study in rats has shown that virgin coconut oil lowered lipid levels in serum and tissues and LDL oxidation2. These cardiovascular protective effects of virgin coconut oil are thought to be due to differences in the absorption, transport and breakdown of its constituent fatty acids as well as the higher amounts of biologically active unsaponifiable minor components present in virgin coconut oil6.
Virgin Coconut Oil Negative & Side Effects
Just like coconut oil, the main reported negative side effect of virgin coconut oil is nausea. There are some reports that virgin coconut oil is better tolerated than coconut oil, however, these have not been substantiated in a proper study.
Virgin Coconut Oil Recommended Doses & Ingredients Timing
Virgin coconut oil is typically used in dose of 5-15ml. Doses above these tend to produce gastrointestinal upset in a number of individuals, but there is a large degree of individual variation in gastrointestinal tolerance to virgin olive oil.
Virgin Coconut Oil Supplements
Virgin coconut oil supplements are widely available and naturally most make a point of trying to accentuate their ‘virgin’ nature so as to distinguish them from the run-of-the-mill coconut oil. Some virgin coconut oil supplements also try to distinguish themselves by virtue of their lauric acid content as this is recognised as one of the most important medium chain fatty acid levels within coconut oil.
1. Nevin KG & Rajamohan T. Virgin coconut oil diet increases the antioxidant status in rats. Food Chem. 2006;99:260–266.
2. Nevin KG & Rajamohan T. Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. Clin Biochem. 2004;37:830–835.
3. Nevin KG & Rajamohan T. Influence of virgin coconut oil on blood coagulation factors, lipid levels and LDL oxidation in cholesterol fed Sprague–Dawley rats. e-SPEN. Eur e-J Clin Nutr Metabol. 2008;3: e1–e8.
4. Hayatullina Z, et al. Virgin coconut oil supplementation prevents bone loss in osteoporosis rat model. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:237236.
5. Arunima S & Rajamohan T. Virgin coconut olive oil improves hepatic lipid metabolism in rats-compared with copra oil, olive oil and sunflower oil. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology. 2012;50:802-809.
6. Arunima S & Rajamohan T. Influence of virgin coconut oil-enriched diet on the transcriptional regulation of fatty acid synthesis and oxidation in rats – a comparative study. British Journal of Nutrition. 2014; 1-9.
7. Hayatullina Z, et al. Virgin coconut oil supplementation prevents bone loss in osteoporosis rat model. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:237236.