Coconut Oil-A Treasure Trove Of Health Benefits Amid Controversies
Scientific India|July - August 2019
Coconut Oil-A Treasure Trove Of Health Benefits Amid Controversies

Coconut [Cocos nucifera L.,] belongs to the family Arecaceae and is widely called as 'Kalpaviriksha' or 'Tree of Heaven'.

It is also one of the most important sources of vegetable oil in the world. Coconut and various values added products obtained from coconut have numerous health benefits. Amidst controversies about the healthy nature of coconut products, this article discusses various health benefits of coconut oil to dispel any negative connotation associated with coconut and its products. 'Health is wealth'-though an old saying is relevant for all the ages. Overall health includes internal as well as external well being. Today the world is more health conscious and people always strive to choose health promoting foods and products without any inadvertent effects or minimal side effects.

Moreover any food or crop product with multiple health benefits is a preferred choice for the consumers. We consume foods to obtain all the essential nutrients mainly carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Similarly, oils we consume also play an important and integral part in our daily life in maintaining good health. Since centuries we have been using coconut oil for different purposes because of its numerous health benefits whether in the form of cooking oil or to nourish and alleviate skin and hair related ailments, in cosmetics, in pharmaceuticals products and in other industries. Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel of the mature dried coconut (Cocos nucifera L.). Worldwide, around 80 countries grow coconut and India ranks third only after Philippines and Indonesia in coconut production. Coconut grows well in tropical climatic conditions hence Southeast Asian countries are the largest producer of coconut oil. Philippines contribute around 35.7% of total global coconut oil production and it is the largest exporter while US is the biggest importer of the coconut oil. Although tropical countries produce coconut oil but the demand is not only limited to these regions of origin but huge demand exists in developed economies such as Canada, USA, Europe and Australia. Coconut oil has shown many benefits including its effect on weight loss, increasing total cholesterol and HDL, oral hygiene and antimicrobial and antifungal properties, improved digestion among many others.

Once, coconut oil was rightly given an epithet “superfood” but from the last few years there is a slight downfall in the coconut oil production worldwide due to the negative connotation put forwarded by many health organizations including WHO, American Heart Association and Food and Drug Administration mainly because of its higher saturated fat content which is thought to cause many health complications like heart diseases, obesity. However, the association of saturated fat with these ailments is still a questionable debate.

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July - August 2019