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OILS AND FATS

Coconut oil not unhealthy, contrary to unsubstantiated claims, says SEA
Monday, 10 September, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) has stated that coconut oil was healthy, in response to a number of unsubstantiated opinions about its nutritional aspects in the press as well as on social media.

In fact, it advised consumers not to believe the casual and extrapolative views expressed in reports that point out that coconut oil is harmful for consumption or poison, because it has been a part of the Indian diet for over 5,000 years.

It is consumed by a majority of the people in the southern states of India, and the incidence of cardio-vascular diseases (CVDs) in region is lower than the national average.

Research published in Tropical Doctor in 1997 by Dr P Dileep Kumar has also suggested that neither coconut nor coconut oil played no specific role in the causation of CVDs in Indian patients from Kerala.

Socio-economic impact
Coconut is the key cash crop in southern India. India produces over four lakh metric tonne (MT) of edible coconut oil, and the southern economies, especially those of the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, are majorly dependent on coconut and its products.

Major coconut-producing states

State

Percentage of production

Kerala

34%

Tamil Nadu

28%

Karnataka

23%

Andhra Pradesh

6%

Other states

9%

Total

100%


India has emerged as one of the biggest exporters of value-added coconut oil and virgin coconut oil, increasing the farmers’ incomes.

The negative publicity surrounding the health aspects of coconut oil is not only damaging to Indian heritage, but also to the economic scenario of farmers dependent on coconut farming.

Moreover, given the current flood situation in Kerala, it is of utmost importance that the economy of Kerala in general, and its coconut farmers in particular, be supported and all the allegations levelled against coconut oil, which are untrue by all scientific means, be refuted.

Unique edible oil
Coconut oil has a unique composition, which makes it healthy for cooking, consumption and assimilation in the body in many ways.

Myths about the unhealthiness of coconut oil arise from the extrapolation of generic science on saturated fatty acids, which do not take into account the unique composition of coconut oil, and presence of unique fatty acids.

There is a good amount of research at both the national and international levels, which has proved the positive health benefits of coconut oil.

The Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) is a body that spearheads research that supports the healthiness of coconut oil.

Scientific truths about health benefits of coconut oil
  • Vegetable oil continues three groups of fatty acids which have been advised to be balanced for the healthy being of the consumer
  • Though, coconut oil has a higher level of saturated fatty acids by composition, these fatty acids are different in the structure, and therefore, follow a different path in their bio-assimilation. Similar fatty acids are present in mother’s milk
  • Coconut oil has saturated fatty acids which are in the form of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These fats are metabolised differently than the long-chain triglycerides, which are present in the most vegetable oils, animal fats and bakery fats
  • Long-chain saturated fatty acids coming from vegetable oil are stored in adipose tissues as an energy store, whereas MCTs (a major part of coconut oil) are directly transported to liver quickly metabolising into ketone bodies to generate the energy. The quick absorption and assimilation of MCTs in body do not allow storage of triglycerides (TGs) or lead to any unfavourable lipoproteins. This has been widely supported in literature
  • The quick conversion of MCTs, allow quick burning of fat (no storage of fat in body), quick release of energy (useful for patients and sportspeople) and composition similar to mother’s milk (used for infant nutrition). Many studies have indicated the weight management and good digestibility of coconut oil
  • The lauric acid present (approximately 50 per cent) in coconut oil has unique properties. The metabolised part of MCTS in body is known as 1-monolaurin and known to bestow antiviral, antibacterial and anti-protozoan properties in the body
  • The consumption of expelled natural coconut oil increases the good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. Indians are genetically predisposed to have low levels of HDL, and therefore, need diets which can increase HDL
  • Therefore, it is absolutely wrong, by any measure, to extrapolate the nutritional understanding of long-chain vegetable oils, animal fats and bakery products to coconut oil containing MCTs
International scientific community
APCC is an inter-governmental organisation of coconut producing countries established in 1969 under the aegis of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP).

The APCC Secretariat is located in Jakarta, Indonesia and is headed by an executive director. APCC has 18 coconut-producing member countries accounting for over 90 per cent of the world’s coconut production and exports of coconut products.

The APCC member countries include the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kiribati, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Vietnam. Jamaica and Kenya are associate member countries of the APCC.

APCC has published and uploaded many scientific articles on their website about the health benefits of coconut oil. These can be downloaded from their website.

These international references have given a clear picture about how coconut oil is beneficial for human health. Its lauric acid, capric acid and MCT have unique health benefits.

National scientific community
India has the Coconut Development Board (CDB), which is a statutory body established under the ministry of agriculture, Government of India. It has published many articles about the health benefits of coconut oil.

As per CBD, coconut oil has many health benefits as given below because it is predominantly comprised of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) or MCTs, which are readily metabolised in the body and converted to energy instantaneously. Advanced research has proved that naturally-occurring fats aren’t what damage your heart.

There are many other research articles published in Indian and international journals and media which talk about the health benefits of coconut oil.

Studies undertaken by the biochemistry department, University of Kerala showed that coconut oil:
  • Does not elevate total blood cholesterol
  • Increases HDL blood cholesterol
  • Increases the HDL/TC ratio
  • Consumed along with coconut kernel lowers blood cholesterol
  • Decreases serum triglycerides
Many scientifically-oriented and responsible organisations like APCC, CDB and national and international universities proved that coconut oil was healthy and has multi-faceted health benefits for consumers. Coconut oil is a national jewel like rice bran oil, which need to be preserved against such malicious, misleading information.

In addition to this, Kerala is facing a big natural calamity, and such false and disparaging articles about coconut have the potential to damage the market of coconut oil and have a negative impact on the farmers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the states’ economies.

SEA believes the selection of edible oil should be based on one’s choice, liking, taste, affordability and customs. All edible oils are good for health, if consumed in moderate quantities. Disparaging one over the other is not ethically correct, especially in a country like India where 70 per cent of the economy is based on agriculture.

It is also of the opinion that the department of food and public distribution, the department of consumer affairs, FSSAI, CDB and the government will take note of such misleading articles and take appropriate action against them.

It is imperative that the unscientific, damaging report on coconut oil be ignored, and in its stead, a statement be issued that coconut oil is a safe edible oil for human beings.
 
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