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Fall 2015, Natalia Sevilla

Coconut oil: finding the facts behind the health trend

San Diego grocery stores constantly have to restock their shelves of coconut oil product, due to its popularity in the health community. The demand of coconut oil in San Diego continues to grow because of its nutritious sources of food, oil, milk, and juice. 

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Sprouts Farmers Market store in Chula Vista sells over 10 brands of coconut oil. Health experts recommend the organic, virgin coconut oil to get the most benefits.

At the Chula Vista Sprouts Farmers Market, people can find coconut oil products in the protein, vitamin, grocery section, and at the front by the cashiers. Sprouts sells more than 10 brands of coconut oil in their store.

According to Martinez, every two to three days store employees have to restock the entire shelves in all four sections.

“It’s a hot item and we can hardly keep this stuff on the shelf,” said vitamin clerk Marcie Martinez. “People usually buy the extra virgin, organic, and unrefined coconut oil and they use it for everything.”

La Mesa Trader Joe’s employees say that coconut oil has been one of the most popular products sold in the store.

“Around last year there was a point where we couldn’t get coconut oil from the warehouse and a lot of people freaked out,” Jewel Sumabat said.

Trader Joe’s used to put a limit on how much a customer could buy coconut oil because they could not keep it on the shelf, another Trader Joe’s employee, Mayra Juarez said.

She added that the supply is more stable now.

Costco stores currently sell coconut products such as coffee, water and oil. They first started selling coconut oil in a brand called Nutiva, but because of its high demand, Costco created its own Kirkland signature brand of organic, virgin and unrefined coconut oil.

Uses And Trends In the Health Community

MULTIMEDIA: Derek Smith uses coconut oil as a daily routine for: cooking, oil-pulling, hair, skin, and consumes a spoonful of coconut oil in his smoothies or coffee. He uses the Nutiva brand for its organic, virgin, and unrefined coconut oil.

raw coco Natures Way

Sprouts Farmers Market sells Nature’s Way brand of coconut oil that is on sale for the month of December. Nature’s Way is an organic, virgin, and unrefined coconut oil. The 16-ounce bottle is on sale from $14.99 to $9.99.

“Coconut oil has been a definite growing trend in the holistic health community since the last 15 years,” said Murrieta health counselor Joseph Montgomery.

Nature’s Best customer service representative Sherry Davis said that for the past two years coconut oil and coconut water have been very popular, and people buy it for its beauty and health benefits.

She said that Nature’s Best usually sells over 516 coconut oil bottles a week to its stores in San Diego. The company carries over 80 different types of coconut oils and 12 different brands.

For people who want to get the most benefits out of coconut oil, Montgomery recommends starting with one or two tablespoons a day blended in a smoothie or oatmeal and see how the body responds, then increase their daily intake if needed. 

Montgomery typically consumes five to eight tablespoons to boost his overall health. According to his research, coconut oil is multifaceted and helps with diabetes, obesity, digestion, thyroid, brain function, hormone control, and is anti-microbial.

Christine Wines, a holistic health counselor in San Diego, uses coconut oil for a variety of purposes including cooking, massage, deodorant, toothpaste, and personalized scents. She said she loves it and has been using it for three years now.

“Instead of supplements, I take coconut oil,” Wines said.

SLIDESHOW: Holistic Health Counselor and Massage Therapist Christine Wines uses coconut oil on some of her clients for massage. She likes to mix coconut oil with essential oils like lavender oil for those who want it instead of lotion.

What Is So Great About Coconut Oil?

Numerous studies and academic journals have shown that coconut oil treats alzheimer’s by using the ketones that break down fat to create energy to help the brain function and improve memory.

An obesity research study from Boston University proved that medium chain fatty acids(MCFA’s) like those found in coconut oil help with breaking down fat. More research was done by the University of Carolina to study women between the ages of 35-69, which found that an intake of coconut oil benefits hormones and women during menopause.

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Trader Joe’s only sells their own brand of organic, virgin, coconut oil in their store. There are 1,001 uses for coconut oil, according to a Trader Joe’s sign. Their 16-ounce bottle costs $5.99

Coconut oil is made up of about 62 percent of three healthy fatty acids: caprylic acid, lauric acid and capric acid. Lauric acid is a rare medium-chain fatty acid found in mother’s milk that supports healthy metabolism and has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial health-protecting properties.

While there are many benefits to coconut oil, medical professionals say consumers should choose the product carefully.

Dr. David Parra, a family practitioner at Kaiser Permanente, suggested that people should read their labels before they buy a product. “Just because it says ‘organic’ on the label, it is not necessarily healthy for you,” he said.

Parra does not use coconut oil. “It’s still kinda new, but I’m not against it,” he said.

He believes that there is currently not enough data to prove the health benefits, and that an excessive amount of MCFA’s can lead to blocking people’s arteries and lead to danger, but it is definitely something to consider rather than eating corn oil or lard.

“Coconut oil would definitely be a good healthy alternative than other oils,” Parra said.

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Costco stores created their own Kirkland signature brand of coconut oil because of its popularity. They sell a package of two organic, virgin coconut oil containers of 42-ounces for $24.99

He said that he personally does not encourage patients to use it, but considers both coconut oil and olive oil to be appropriate for a healthy diet. “I like to tell patients about different options, and healthier options are the best,” he said.

“Olive oil is also healthy and more studies have been done on it,” Parra said. “The pros of coconut oil are that it is a healthier oil, and a person can have a lower health risk, while the con being with any type of oil, too much is not good,” he said.

Montgomery believes that doctors do not spend enough time in organic raw diets and nutrition for human function, and they think pharmaceuticals can help solve the problem.

Wines likes to substitute butter for coconut oil because it is more easily absorbed and not as much is needed, she said.

“It’s all just personal opinion,” Wines said. “I use my own experience of trying something new for myself,”

Rachael Emerick, a San Diego resident, uses coconut oil for her chapped lips and to take off her makeup,.“I feel less bad about it because it’s natural,” she said. However, to cook, she would rather use olive oil, “a ton of it,” she said.

Emerick said she would switch to coconut oil if the health benefits outweighed those of olive oil. The most information she knows about coconut oil is for its beauty purposes.

Choosing The Best Coconut Oil: Facts vs. Fiction

graph2Montgomery said that there are a lot of coconut oils that use too many chemicals. He suggests that people buy the unrefined, organic coconut oil with as little of human interaction as possible.

Low quality coconut oil can be harmful just like any other low quality foods. Some coconut oils are bleached to make them appear whiter, and may even contain hexane.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, hexane is used to extract edible oils and as a cleaning agent. Long-term exposure to hexane is associated with polyneuropathy, affecting the nerves in the body, including numbness in the extremities, weakness, blurred vision, headache, and fatigue.

Montgomery said that some individuals might see an increase in acne, if they exceed the amount that their body can tolerate. Also, there is no such thing as “extra” virgin coconut oil, he said. The “extra” is written on the label so that it sounds better than the regular virgin oil but it is the exact same thing.

Registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente Angelica Tamayo said that people with nut sensitivities should be okay with consuming coconut oil. “Coconut oil is a fruit and it is not related to nuts,” she said.

San Diego nutrionist Karen Roth recommends coconut oil because people can cook with it using higher temperatures. “It is great with stir frying over high heat,” she said.

“There are no cons to coconut oil, except with the refined types and over processed oils which can take out some of the health benefits from it,” Roth said.

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About Natalia Sevilla

Hello, my name is Natalia Sevilla and I am 24 years old. I am a full-time student at San Diego State University, studying Journalism with a minor in Theater. I like reading and learning about health and nutrition. Also, I just recently got into hiking and I love it. I like to go to the gym, and I love the beach, traveling and adventure. I went backpacking to Peru in 2013 and Brazil in 2014 (Yes, I was there for the World Cup). It was the absolute best experience ever. I graduate in December 2015 and move to Los Angeles to start my acting career, and hopefully work for a news station/media agency or anything of that sort. Currently, I am a Public/Community Relations intern and radio show Producer for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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