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If lauric acid enters the eyes, it can cause severe discomfort and irritation. Also, it would be advisable for people allergic to coconut oil to stay away from this acid.

Lauric acid is a fatty acid found in coconut and palm kernel oil. Although the health benefits of coconut oil are known, not many people know that a majority of these benefits are due to lauric acid present in it. This saturated fatty acid is beneficial to the body in a number of ways.

This Buzzle article discusses the structure, properties, benefits, and uses of lauric acid.

What is Lauric Acid?

Lauric acid is a saturated, medium-chain fatty acid. It has a 12-carbon atom chain. It is white in color, has a powdery texture, and a soapy smell.

Properties

IUPAC name: Dodecanoic acid

Formula: C12H24O2

Structure of Lauric Acid
chemical structure of lauric acid

Molar mass: 200.3178 g/mol

Density: 880.00 kg/m³

Melting point/Freezing point: 109.8°F (43.2°C)

Boiling point: 570°F (298.9°C)

Sources

coconut as a source of lauric acid
Coconut
palm kernel as a source of lauric acid
Palm Kernel

Coconut is the most abundant natural source of lauric acid. It is also found in palm kernel oil (different from palm oil). There are other sources as well, but the percentage of lauric acid in them is comparatively less.

Coconut oil: 45 - 57%

Palm Kernel Oil: 50%

Human Breast Milk: 6.2%

Goat Milk: 3.1%

Cow Milk: 2.9%

Uses

It is consumed as a medicine for various diseases.

It is used to make soaps and cosmetics.

It is used to find the molar mass of an unknown substance. This technique is called freezing-point depression.

It is also used as a food shortening.

Benefits

Lauric acid is a medium-chain triglyceride, which can be easily absorbed by the body. This makes it a direct source of energy.

Like other saturated fats, it does not contain cholesterol. Thus, it helps lower blood cholesterol and reduces the chances of atherosclerosis.

It has fewer calories (8.3 calories per gram), making it potentially helpful for weight loss.

When lauric acid enters our body, it converts to monolaurin, which is antimicrobial, antiprotozoal, and antifungal. Without lauric acid, our body cannot produce monolaurin.

Monolaurin is a monoglyceride that is used in the treatment of fungal infections like ringworm or athlete's foot.

It is also used as a medicine in the treatment of viral infections, influenza, swine flu, avian flu, common cold, cold sores, bronchitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV/AIDS.

Its anti-microbial properties make it useful for the treatment of acne.

It also improves metabolism, is non-toxic, and safe to handle.

It is beneficial for the hair and skin. It is inexpensive and has a long shelf life.

How to Include Lauric Acid in Your Diet

It is not advisable to totally swap all the oils with coconut oil, but you can include it in stir-fries or when baking.

Daily intake of 2-3 teaspoons of coconut oil is recommended.

A spoonful of dried coconut contains around 2 grams of lauric acid, whereas coconut milk contains 3 oz.

The best coconut oil for usage will be cold-pressed, virgin, and organic.

Unfortunately, there is not enough evidence to suggest the effectiveness of lauric acid in the treatment of diseases. There are no fixed doses or proportions of lauric acid as a medicine. But the benefits of lauric acid to overall health cannot be denied.