One of the drawbacks I have found with setting myself up as an internet guru is that the more questions I get the more I realise how little I know. Take this one from Rebecca.
Hello. First off, I am not entirely sure if this is a type of scientific problem that is addressable, or even common, but I thought it was startling and strange. I have always had good skin, no acne problems as a teenager. I would get the occasional pimple but it was never anything severe. I think that is pretty lucky. However, when I met my boyfriend (now fiance) he introduced me to coconut oil, to cook with. I had never heard of it, much less tried it. Fast forward a few weeks. I began breaking out like crazy, but after several months I noticed it was only on my cheeks. I was devastated, and since I have quite a healthy diet I tried everything from making sure I had a clean pillow case, washing my face am and pm, everything. I would get at least one new blemish a day. I did some online research, which I am not sure how trustworthy that can be, but I found that coconut oil could have been the culprit. I have since stopped cooking with it (note: I never used it directly on my skin, only ingested it) and my skin has improved dramatically. I no longer get any blemishes. I read that coconut oil can release liposaccharides and these can let gut bacteria into the bloodstream. This in turn was causing my body to try to fight this off, and I think it manifested as acne, but only on my cheeks. Do you know if this is really the case? Could I just be allergic to coconut oil? I can hardly believe this substance did so much damage. Do you think others have this problem? Is it common? My fiance can eat the coconut oil on food with no trouble at all. I am glad I found a solution for myself but I am just wondering at the science behind it! Thanks!
Well that one has me baffled, other than to say we are all different. I have never heard of this happening with coconut oil before, and given that it is staple food ingredient across wide stretches of the globe I can’t imagine it is very common.
Coconut oil is not very different to other oils that you eat. It does have an unusually high level of what chemists call highly saturated fatty acids. But I can’t think of any reason that that should affect your skin. All the oils that you eat are broken down by the body into their component parts so the particular type you eat doesn’t make a huge amount of difference. Or at least, I can’t think of any reason that it should.
There is one possible explanation. There is a suggestion in some quarters that high blood sugar levels can lead to spots. What happens is that the body secretes the excess glucose in the blood into the pores, and once there bacteria take advantage of it to grow. Your body reacts to the bacteria and that creates a spot. This is an hypothesis that I have been considering for a while to explain the widely held notion that eating a Mars bar can give you spots shortly afterwards. (I have to confess that there is no real scientific data to back up this idea – it just seems to fit with a lot of anecdotes I have heard over the years.)
This is a good story for a glucose-rich Mars bar, but it isn’t quite so obvious that coconut oil would have the same effect. But it is conceivable that because you are unfamiliar with coconut oil you are using a lot more than you would of oils you are used to. In which case, maybe your blood glucose gets elevated because you have unwittingly increased the number of calories you are eating?
But basically, I don’t know. I will have to throw it open and see if any readers have any information to shed light on this one.
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