Itchy dog? Coconut oil. Dry Skin? Coconut oil. Lose weight? Coconut oil. Frizzy hair? Coconut oil. No shaving cream? Coconut oil. Bad credit? Coconut oil. Boyfriend acting up? Coconut oil.
The never ending “miracle cure supplement”, coconut oil is all the rave recently. The media, online blogs, online raw feeding groups, and other raw feeders have captured this “supplement” trend and perpetuate it with soft science. Ultimately, coconut oil is not harmful, although it is not beneficial or optimal for raw diets.
a dubious or fraudulent remedy or cure
A phrase originally referred to fraudulent health products or unproven medicine but has come to refer to any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. It comes from the 19th-century practice of selling cure-all elixirs in medicine shows.
Although raw feeding as whole is known to be anecdotal considering the lack of scientific research on the benefits carnivorous pets receive, we do not want to imply that beneficial discoveries have not been made through popular “soft science” topics. In contrast, there is nutritional facts to use when determining if coconut oil truly has a place in raw feeding.
Components of Coconut Oil
First let’s look at the components of coconut oil. It is a blend of fats, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil provides 117 calories, 13.6g fat, 0g carbohydrates, and 0g protein. These fat components consist of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
1tbsp.(13.6g) coconut oil = 12g saturated fat
The saturated fats within coconut are comprised of caproic, caprylic, capric, lauric, myristic, palmitic, and stearic acid. Lauric acid is the most dominant of this group. This is a medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) that does provide proven antimicrobial benefits which is useful for topical applications, the creation of soaps/shampoos, treating fungal infections, and preserving. However, other health claims for the benefits of lauric acid has very little research to back it.
1tbsp.(13.6g) coconut oil = 0.8g monounsaturated fat
The monounsaturated fat within coconut oil is made entirely of oleic acid, the omega 9 fatty acid. Monounsaturated fats can have a beneficial effects on the heart when eaten in moderation. Evidence suggests that oleic acid helps lower levels of harmful low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) in the bloodstream, while leaving levels of beneficial high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) unchanged.
1tbsp.(13.6g) coconut oil = 0.2g polyunsaturated fat
Polyunsaturated fat typically consists of two different fatty acids, omega 6 and omega 3. However the polyunsaturated fat within coconut oil is entirely of linoleic acid, the inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid. This is abundant in all foods, and when too much omega 6 is ingested it can create inflammation, pain, and increase illness growth.
What is good for humans is not always beneficial to our pets and coconut oil is one of those items. It is reported to have a list of claims to treat and prevent a wide variety of health problems…unfortunately there is very little scientific evidence backing these claims. Coconut oil is claimed to be a “superfood” in many articles and blogs without factual evidence to base the claims which ultimately leaves many people to fall for false information.
Coconut oil primarily entered the spotlight for cardiovascular health due to its high concentration of MCTs. Much of the human medical community initially focused on cardiac benefits. Unfortunately, evidence of any beneficial effect in human medicine is lacking. Additionally, cardiac disease in canines and felines is vastly different in etiology from people.
Claims arose regarding benefits for the skin through the rationale since coconut oil contains dietary fatty acids which is important in a variety of organ systems, including the skin. However there is no benefit in feeding coconut oil in hopes to achieve a healthier coat since it lacks the omega 3. However more successful usages of coconut oil for skin is topical application due to its moisturizing benefits.
Weight gain is a large problem in canines and felines as well as human patients receiving coconut oil. Pets who are fed coconut oil in the hopes of weight loss end up having more body fat than pets on diets with raw animal fat.
Coconut Oil & Raw Diets
Species raw diets aim to achieve an appropriate balance to provide our pets with the essential tools to meet nutritional requirements. In the topic of creating an optimal diet, the addition of coconut oil effects achieving that goal.
Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods. The majority come mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products. Since carnivores metabolize animal fat into energy, an already present ingredient in raw feeding, adding additional fats into the diet is not ideal. The addition of coconut oil introduces more highly saturated fats which only promotes weight gain.
If your pet needs additional fat to balance out a lean meal, it is more appropriate and ideal to source animal based fats to achieve this balance. Using coconut oil not only increases fat content within a meal, it also significantly effects the balance of omega 6 and 3.
At one time, meat had roughly equal amounts of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. However, widespread commercial farming and feed lots has shifted the dietary ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. Modern agriculture increased production by emphasizing grain feeds for domestic livestock and grains are rich in omega 6 fats. Therefore aggressive, industrialized agricultural management techniques have decreased the omega 3 fat content in most foods: meat, eggs, green leafy vegetables, and even fish.
The balance of omega 6 to omega 3 becomes meaningful since grain-fed beef can have ratios that exceed 20:1 whereby grass-fed beef is down around 3:1. Similar ratios are also found in all grain-fed versus grass-fed livestock products. This change has primed our pets for chronic inflammatory diseases. Since we know coconut oil contains a high amout of omega 6, the addition of coconut oil in raw diets only increases the unbalanced omega 6 to 3 ratio present in commercially farmed meats.
Coconut Oil Conclusion
Although coconut oil does not give any benefits to raw diets when ingested, there are areas where coconut oil is beneficial. Since there is a substantial amount of antimicrobial lauric acid present in coconut oil, it gives promising benefits for topical applications and usage when creating supplemental “pastes.”
The high amounts of fats present in coconut oil is wonderful at sealing the skin to retain moisture when treating and preventing dry, flaky skin.
Coconut oil is a great carrier oil to use to ensure that essential oils applied topically are comfortable to the skin.
High amounts of saturated fats and lauric acid within coconut oil provides a great antimicrobial/preservation option to use with making supplemental pastes, such as Turmeric Golden Paste. Additionally, the saturated fats within coconut oil increase the bioavailability of vitamins/nutrients within herbal supplements.
Pet parents should utilize coconut oil as a topical application or in supplement creation as stated above. Additionally, pet parents should avoid feeding large amounts of coconut oil on a regular basis considering the substantial amount of inflammatory omega 6 already present in commercially farmed meats and how coconut oil only increases those levels. In an optimal diet, coconut oil should not be present since it effects the saturated fat and fatty acid balance within raw diets.