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Is Virgin Coconut Oil Good for Diabetics?

By Naomi Parks

Diabetes is a metabolic condition characterized by inadequate use or production of insulin. Although it's incurable, it is treatable through exercise, foot care, medication, blood-glucose monitoring and blood-pressure, weight and cholesterol control. Accordingly, it's best to avoid oils, which can increase triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Coconut oil is an exception, potentially benefiting those with diabetes.

Cellular Absorption of Energy

Insulin is an enzyme you need to absorb energy from carbohydrates. When you eat carbohydrates, your body converts them to glucose. Once glucose enters the bloodstream, your pancreas releases insulin, which signals cells to absorb the glucose. The cells release another enzyme, carnitine tranferase, which allows the glucose to enter the mitochondria, which are the cell engines. The glucose fuels the mitochondria, thereby fueling the cells. Some metabolic conditions cause insulin resistance, whereby cells do not respond to insulin normally, so their glucose absorption is inadequate or nonexistent.

Medium-Chain Fatty Acids

Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, instead of long-chain fatty acids found in most other saturated fats. Medium-chain fatty acids are small enough to permeate both cell and mitochondrial membranes, Bruce Fife writes in "The Coconut Oil Miracle." Therefore, it requires no insulin release, which is usually necessary for cell absorption. Neither does it require carnitine transferase, which is usually essential for entry into the mitochondria. In other words, coconut oil is a source of fast-absorbing fuel that is very low on the glycemic index, which is optimal for those with diabetes.

Virgin Oil

Not all kinds of coconut oil are equally beneficial. Unrefined virgin coconut oil is the most beneficial for those with diabetes. Its distinguishing characteristics include a milky color and a fragrance reminiscent of coconut, Siegfried Gursche writes in "Coconut Oil: Discover the Key to Vibrant Health." At room temperature, unrefined virgin coconut oil is mostly solid. Low-quality, nonvirgin coconut oil is a refined, bleached, deodorized and thick liquid.

Lauric Acid

Coconut oil has particularly high levels of lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that the body converts to monolaurin, according to Gursche. This substance can help to lower LDL cholesterol, which is directly beneficial to those with diabetes. It also acts as an anti-oxidant and exhibits antiviral, as well as antibacterial activity.

Bottom Line

There is a great deal of evidence that coconut oil is a good choice, not only for diabetics, but also for those who don't have the disease. Substituting unhealthy oils in your diet with coconut oil can help to prevent diabetes, as well as maintain it by lowering cholesterol and controlling blood sugar. But always discuss alterations to your diet with your doctor, particularly if you have diabetes.

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