Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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Coconut oil is widely marketed as a superfood. It has high levels of saturated fat, causing some health authorities to recommend limiting consumption of it as a food. But in moderate amounts, coconut oil has been shown to have many benefits, such as boosting heart health, fat loss and brain function.
A 1981 study noted the population of Tokelau, an island chain in the South Pacific, obtained more than 60 percent of their calories from coconuts – which are loaded with coconut oil.
Researchers reported not only good overall health but also very low rates of heart disease.
Kitavan people in Papua New Guinea also eat a lot of coconut and have little stroke or heart disease.
Obesity can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, including type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer.
Coconut oil has been shown to encourage fat burning, reduce hunger, and reduce harmful abdominal fat.
While some people link obesity to how many calories you eat, the source of the calories is important too.
The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil can increase the number of calories your body burns compared with longer-chain fatty acids.
One study found eating 15-30g of MCTs per day increased 24-hour energy expenditure by 5 percent.
MCTs may also reduce hunger. In one study, six healthy men ate varying amounts of MCTs and long-chain triglycerides (LCTs).
Those who are the most MCTs ate fewer calories per day.
Visceral fat, sometimes referred to as ‘belly fat’, is a type of body fat that lodges in the abdominal cavity around your orange.
MCTs appear to be especially effective at reducing visceral fat compared to LCTs.
In a 12-week study in 40 women with abdominal obesity, those who took two tablespoons of coconut oil per day had a significant reduction in both Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference.
Studies have also suggested coconut oil may boost brain function in Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and usually affects older adults.
The authors of a 2006 study reported that MCTs improved brain function in people with milder forms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Finally, coconut oil may raise HDL (good) cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance which the body needs to build cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
But there are different types of cholesterol – HDL (good) cholesterol makes you less likely to have heart problems or a stroke, and LDL (bad) cholesterol makes you more likely to have heart problems or a stroke.
Coconut oil contains natural saturated fats that increase HDL cholesterol levels in your body.
They may also help turn LDL cholesterol into a less harmful form.
By increasing HDL cholesterol, many experts believe that coconut oil may boost heart health compared with many other fats.
In one study involving 40 women, coconut oil reduced total and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDl, compared with soybean oil.
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