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Should You Include Coconut Oil in Your Hep C Wellness Plan?

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. April 20, 2011

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Possessing attributes that could benefit someone with chronic Hepatitis C, discover why coconut oil consumption is not necessarily an ideal dietary staple.

Many with Hepatitis C know that vegetables and alcohol are the antithesis of one another; the former being beneficial to the liver while the latter is harmful. However, there are many more substances that can impact liver health. When we think of oils, helping the liver protect against toxins doesn’t usually come to mind. Despite its reputation for neutralizing viruses, boosting energy and supporting the liver, there may be a reason the oil derived from coconuts rarely receives acknowledgment by the Hepatitis C community.

Having chronic Hepatitis C means that a continual battle is being waged within the liver; the virus is attempting to inflame and damage the liver while the body defends against it. During this battle, lifestyle choices can tip liver health balance one way or the other. Since everything we eat or drink must be processed by the liver, dietary selections can play a major role in staying well with Hepatitis C.

Dietary fads claiming health benefits cycle every few years, and coconut oil has been one of the products that repeatedly grabs attention. With conflicting information about whether or not to include coconut oil in a liver health program, there is justifiable confusion surrounding this tropical medium.

Lauric Acid

Advocates claim that lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid found mainly in coconut oil, is the substance predominantly responsible for coconut oil’s health benefits. Pure coconut oil contains about 50 percent lauric acid, and is the most abundant natural source of lauric acid available.

Lauric acid is the same disease-fighting medium chain fatty acid found in breast milk that protects infants from viral and bacterial infections. According to Dr. Mary Enig, author of “Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol,” lauric acid is converted by the body into a substance known as monolaurin, which possesses antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Monolaurin destroys certain viruses, fungi and bacteria by dissolving the cell membrane, neutralizing lipid-coated viruses such as herpes simplex virus-1, influenza, the measles, Hepatitis C and organisms associated with infections in HIV patients.

Metabolism Boost

Sometimes advised for weight loss or chronic fatigue syndrome, coconut oil is believed to improve metabolism. This is because coconut oil primarily consists of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). MCFAs are easily digested and converted into energy, thus causing an increase in metabolism. As such, coconut oil may help reduce the fatigue typical of chronic Hepatitis C.

Long-chain fatty acids, like those in polyunsaturated oils, are more difficult for the body to break down and use for energy. Instead, long-chain fatty acids are usually stored as fat in the body. Of additional benefit to those with a fatty liver, removing long-chain fatty acids from the diet and replacing them with MCFAs may also lead to reduced fat deposition.

Liver Protection

Although the mechanism is not yet understood, coconut oil may protect the liver from injury. Published in a 2011 publication of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Malaysian researchers evaluated the ability of virgin coconut oil to prevent liver damage from a known liver toxin. They found that rats given virgin coconut oil prior to paracetamol (a known liver toxin) significantly reduced liver damage.

Saturated Fat

There is a growing body of evidence supporting the notion that coconut oil is a wise choice for those with chronic Hepatitis C – but not everyone is convinced. The well-known and respected health authority figure, Dr. Andrew Weil, does not recommend coconut oil consumption. In response to a question regarding its healthfulness, Dr. Weil reminds us that coconut oil is a saturated fat – and, as one, it can raise cholesterol levels. Thus, he suggests coconut oil should play a very limited role, if any, in the diet. While he acknowledges coconut oil’s ability to boost metabolism and neutralize viruses, Weil states that there is insufficient evidence to advise its use.

Determining which lifestyle factors could tip the scales toward healthfully living with Hepatitis C is not always a simple task. Based on the facts, switching over to coconut oil could help the liver defend against Hepatitis C. However, coconut oil may also foster a rise in cholesterol – a situation that could aggravate the liver’s well-being. Until more definitive research is available, the decision to consume coconut oil is personal – as there is not yet sound advice for including or excluding coconut oil from a Hepatitis C diet.

References:

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA316479, Is Coconut Oil Good for You?, Andrew Weil, MD, Retrieved March 19, 2011, Weil Lifestyle, LLC, 2011.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/134743-virgin-coconut-oil-benefits-health/, Virgin Coconut Oil Benefits for Health, Karen Eisenbraun, Retrieved March 16, 2011, Demand Media, Inc., 2011.

http://www.naturalnews.com/026808_coconut_oil_metabolism_fatty_acids.html, Coconut Oil Can Promote Weight Loss by Increasing Metabolism Naturally, Elizabeth Walling, Retrieved March 19, 2011, Natural News Network, 2011.

http://www.naturalnews.com/026819_lauric_acid_coconut_oil_infections.html, Learn About the Many Benefits of Lauric Acid in Coconut Oil, Elizabeth Walling, Retrieved March 16, 2011, Natural News Network, 2011.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21318140, Hepatoprotective activity of dried- and fermented-processed virgin coconut oil, Zakaria ZA, et al, Retrieved March 16, 2011, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, January 2011.

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HepatitisCentral.com provides information regarding hepatitis and liver disease. Comments are available to the community in order to discuss these topics and obtain answers to questions through community members. The Editors at HepatitisCentral.com will not be responding to questions or comments posed in article comments.

  • freddy coco

    I have hep c and consistently cook with coconut oil , the reason being that it makes food taste bloody good…

  • cococuckoo wife

    1T MCT oil and 1T coconut oil twice a day, better to add 1 T flax oil in there too because coconut is an omega 6 and flax is omega 3. Those and olive oil are the main oils you should consume if you have Hep C. Saturated fats like palm oil, beef tallow, cocoa butter, and MCT oil (a derivative of coconut oil) protect against alcohol-induced fatty liver disease in animals, whereas polyunsaturated oils like corn oil and fish oil promote it

  • oillover

    Regarding the comment about rising cholesterol and coconut oil, if you go to http://www.msrc.co.uk/index.cfm/fuseaction/show/pageid/1121 you can read some very credible evidence to suggest that not only does coconut oil NOT raise cholesterol, but it does in fact help improve this and many other health concerns. I’ve been eating it for ages and I’ve not only lost weight, but my cholesterol at last count was the lowest it’s ever been. Go coconut oil!!

  • angel

    i was diagnose last january 2007 with hepatitis c..and my sister recommend to me to take virgin coconut oil.. and i did it…i take virgin coconut oil since 2007..then in 2010 i got noreactive for hepatitis c..but this month nov 2012 i am reactive again in hepatitis c…

  • Lorrellei

    Would Dr. Andrew Weil be the one who has produced the antioxidant NAC
    that is being sold/shown on this very page, by chance? I have gone down
    on my RNA count from 1.6 million I.U. to 320,000 I.U. by using coconut
    oil regularly since I began using the TRADER JOE’S brand organic virgin
    coconut oil in 8 months time. It seems that he has problems with that
    usage, but my RNA count continuously says otherwise. Just saying….and I
    am much healthier regarding my regular liver counts and all around
    health as well. As far as MY Dr. says, it is definitely healing me from
    my chronic Hep. C at a steadfast rate. I eat 2 Tbls. daily as well
    as cooking with it and even use it in my smoothies before running. I
    don’t trust his diagnosis as I have read many websites that stand with
    the coconut oil as the best anti-viral and Hep. healer with no side
    effects. I am glad Dr. Andrew Weil is not MY Dr. Plus I now for the first time in 40 years weigh only 120 lbs. down from 187 lbs. so you do not gain weight on it, you lose it!

  • Hi Lorellei,
    I have hepatomegly and fatty liver, and I’m wondering if I should use coconut oil. Can I email you privately?
    Mary

  • SuperKiki

    Andrew Weil is an idiot. He is no more up on advanced naturopathic care than just about any other physician. When was the last time a doctor suggested what you should be eating. It might make your good cholesterol go up (HDL), but that’s GOOD. Mainstream medical advice is still that fat is bad. It is not, good fats are GOOOOOOOD! Have an avacado a day for heaven’s sake. Cholesterol lowering meds are not good, one can lower via diet. Low carb is GOOOOD! Good fats are those found in fish, avacados, olives, coconut or palm oil, olive oil. flax and even butter! Bad fats are every other processed oil (vegetable, corn oil, margerine). Best diet is low carb, low sugar, no processed oils.

  • Warren Gang

    What is wrong with Andrew Weil? I just can’t figure his insanity out! Is he learning disabled?

  • Michael McLaughlin

    First of all, the fatty chains of saturated fat in coconut oil are not the same as most saturated fat and they behave differently than other saturated fats. Second of all, there is a LOT of evidence to show recently that saturated fat is not the villain everyone has thought it to be.

  • Tracey

    I have hep c and every time I take coconut oil I get bad pain in the side of my liver so i’m stopping it

  • Lucas McCain

    That’s what you get for following outdated Dr Weil.
    CNO does NOT increase cholesterol. Mine is about 250 and I like it to be right around there. Does Dr Weil push stain drugs?

    I will take LOTS of CNO like I’ve done for 15+ years. You’re not going to change my mind with Dr Weil and his decades old advice.

    Cholesterol protects us, do you realize that or are you in bed with Big Pharma?