Coconut oil is the latest craze. But does it really help with health and beauty?

The health and beauty benefits of coconut oil

TAMPA, Fla - Karena Kilcoyne is preparing an afternoon snack with coconut oil, the latest health and beauty trend. As a health and lifestyle blogger, she believes in its benefits.

"I do feel like I get a little boost of energy," she said. "Coconut oil is supposed to be good for your thyroid function. And it is supposed to increase your metabolism."  

And she doesn't just use it in the kitchen. She uses to remove eye makeup, to soften her cuticles and to protect her lips. She even adds it to her dog's food. Kilcoyne also makes a homemade body scrub by mixing two tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil with organic sugar.

"And then you just sort of work this together until you're getting the right sort of gritty consistency," Kilcoyne said.

I tried it and have to say it felt much like more expensive products I've tried in a salon. USF nutrition professor Lauri Wright doesn't question its moisturizing properties, but she warned not to expect further benefits from applying it to your skin.

"It is a good moisturizer perhaps," she said. "But it's not going to be absorbed into your body like that and do anything for your heart or your health."

There's little scientific proof of coconut oil's health benefits or risks. She considers it a "neutral fat."

"Even though it's a saturated fat, it seems to be shaped a little different," she said. "So that's why we say neutral, we're looking at the impact on the heart and some of the fats in the blood like the triglycerides. And what we've seen is that it doesn't raise or lower levels."

Researchers at USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute are looking into whether coconut oil has any benefits in terms of Alzheimer's Disease.

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