Coconut milk: Healthy or hazardous?


Timothy Tang

Published: 4:12 AM, March 13, 2014

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) mentions on its website that coconut milk is unhealthy and fattening and suggests low-fat milk as a substitute. Much research, though, has proven coconut milk’s ability to reduce body fat.

The saturated fat in coconut milk is composed of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which the body absorbs and metabolises rapidly into energy.

Other plant- and animal-based saturated fats are composed of long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which are absorbed and metabolised slower, and can get stored as fat easier.

Heart attack is the No 2 killer here, after cancer. In Sri Lanka, though, coconut oil is the main dietary fat and the country has the lowest death rate from ischaemic heart disease.

Dishes that use coconut milk, which itself is not fattening, can be overall fattening if they include animal fats and other plant-based oils composed of LCTs.

A weight-loss diet that includes the consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil can lead to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. Overfeeding mice with an MCT diet has also resulted in diminished deposition of fat.

Research has also found that a combined consumption of MCT and chilli increases diet-induced thermogenesis, leading to effective weight loss in humans who are of normal weight. And there are nutritional characteristics of medium-chain fatty acids: Coconut milk is anti-fungal and anti-bacteria.

The HPB’s outdated perception of coconut milk must be corrected for its wide range of health benefits to reach more people.