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