Behold, the wondrous coconut. Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It's even classified as a "functional food", providing many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Let's focus on coconut's beneficial lauric acid and its saturated fats/medium-chain fatty acids:
Coconut Oil's Lauric Acid
Lauric acid found in coconut oil is excellent for treating skin conditions, fighting off fungal and yeast infections. It is also suggested for ulcer sufferers, because the lauric acid fends off ulcer-aggravating H. pylori bacteria.
According to WebMD, lauric acid is a saturated fat. It is found in many vegetable fats, particularly in coconut and palm kernel oils. People use it as medicine.
Lauric acid is used for treating viral infections including influenza (the flu), swine flu, avian flu, the common cold, fever blisters, cold sores, and genital herpes caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV), genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV/AIDS. It is also used for preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to children.
Other uses for lauric acid include treatment of bronchitis, gonorrhea, yeast infections, chlamydia, intestinal infections caused by a parasite called Giardia lamblia, and ringworm.
In foods, lauric acid is used as a vegetable shortening.
In manufacturing, lauric acid is used to make soap and shampoo.
Coconut Oil's Saturated Fat
Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids, which actually protect your cardio system from plaque build-up and systemic inflammation.
According to WebMD, most saturated fats are solid at room temperature, found in animal products (such as meat, dairy, poultry with skin, and beef fat) and contain cholesterol. Unlike animal fats, tropical oils -- palm, palm kernel, and coconut oils -- are saturated fats that are called oils but depending on room temperature can be solid, semi-solid, or liquid, and do not contain cholesterol.
Like all fats, coconut oil is a blend of fatty acids. Coconut oil contains an unusual blend of short and medium chain fatty acids, primarily lauric (44%) and myristic (16.8%) acids. It is this unusual composition that may offer some health benefits.
Additionally, "because they come from coconuts, they may contain beneficial plant chemicals that have yet to be discovered," says Mozaffarian, researcher and co-director of the cardiovascular epidemiology program at Harvard.