If you have been plugged into the news lately it is likely that you have seen screaming headlines stating that coconut oil is worse than lard for you. Perhaps you have been an avid fan of this tropical fat and now you are concerned that it might actually not be good for you.
Claims about coconut oil being bad for you began to percolate shortly after the release of a new review paper published by the American Heart Association (AHA) which was regarding dietary fats and heart disease. Here are just some of the headlines that came out after the report was published:
- “Coconut oil isn’t as good for you as you might think.”
- “Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy.”
- Coconut oil is “as unhealthy as beef fat and butter.”
All of these statements are pretty strong and clearly seem to make a connection between coconut oil and poor health. The problem is, coconut oil is more complex than researchers are giving it credit for and it is important to unpack the whole truth before passing judgment on this tropical oil.
What is the truth about coconut oil and cholesterol
The American Heart Association makes a link between coconut oil and an increase in (LDL) cholesterol. However, it completely fails to mention the fact that coconut oil actually increases (HDL) cholesterol. The truth is Brazilian researchers found that adding extra-virgin coconut oil into the diet actually gives HDL a bump and helps heart disease patients lose excess body mass which helps protect the heart.
While it is true that coconut oil may increase HDL cholesterol slightly, an interesting study found that it is actually low cholesterol, not high that increases a person’s risk of dying early. There seems to be some consderable misunderstanding here.
What really is at the root of most disease?
If we shift our focus away from cholesterol to inflammation and oxidation as being the number one precursor to a host of diseases including heart disease, we see coconut oil come out like a shining star. When inflammation is present, the body starts to produce cholesterol as a healing agent. Our arteries are like the pipes under your house. If a pipe is damaged and starts to leak, you will need to go and patch it up. This is what cholesterol does – it is like a patch for a damaged spot in an artery. So, you see, if we can reduce and eliminate inflammation – there will be no need for the cholesterol to rise. Cholesterol is merely a byproduct of an inflammatory lifestyle.
Interestingly enough, coconut oil is loaded with anti-inflammatory properties that help the body stay balanced and disease free. In fact, one study in the Pacific Islands showed that the islanders who consumed up to 63 percent of their calories from coconut fat were virtually stroke and heart disease free. They also had only a slight rise in total cholesterol but more importantly a rise in HDL.
More truth: Coconut oil also lowers insulin levels which protect against heart disease. The main fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid, which has antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral benefits.
The biggest mistake of all
By far one of the biggest mistakes that the American Heart Association made in their report was to suggest some very damaging oils as replacement oils for coconut oil. They suggest eating more corn and soy. One big issue here is that 90% of these crops are genetically modified. Nrweigain researchers have found that soy from America contains an “extreme” level of glyphosate, the main ingredient ins the herbicide Roundup.
Also, a study published in the British Medical Journal studied the impact of taking saturated fats out of the diet and replacing them with vegetable oils. Participants consumed more corn oil land margarine during the study period and it was found that this actually increased their risk of coronary heart disease and death from all causes.
Corn and soy along with other vegetable oils are loaded with omega 6-fatty acids. The standard American diet is far too heavy in these fatty acids and far too light on omega 3-fatty acids. For example – corn oil’s omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 49:1. Research has shown that an omega-6 heavy diet can increase the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women and prostate cancer in men.
Faulty dietary guidelines are not new
In the past, the AHA has not exactly hit a home run when it comes to sound dietary guidelines. Remember when they told us that we should eat low-fat processed foods that are loaded with sugar? What about when we were told that all red meat was bad without making a distinction between farm raised meat and grass fed? Remember in the 80’s when all fat was called bad. I stopped eating fat for a while only to discover my nails breaking, my hair falling out, my skin becoming super dry and being so tired I could hardly get out of bed. You may have had a similar experience with this so-called researched dietary guideline.
More helpful information
When making a determination about whether or not to consume coconut oil as opposed to vegetable oil, keep the following in mind:
- We need saturated fat. Over 50% of our the cell membrane is comprised of saturated fatty acids. Saturated fat is necessary for a strong immune system and to protect the liver from toxins.
- Cholesterol is necessary for such things a brain health.
- If you want to reduce your risk of heart disease you should limit your intake of refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated oil, sugar and processed food.
- To protect your heart, use more herbs in cooking, eat bitter greens and be sure that you are getting healthy omega-3 fatty acids from grass fed meats or fish.
Bottom line: The AHA study is particularly nearsighted with regards to coconut oil and heart disease. It appears as though there is still some confusion as to what the real cause of heart disease really is.
Hint... it is not caused by the saturated fat found in coconut oil!
We also need to remember that not everyone’s nutritional requirements are the same. Some do exceptionally well on coconut oil and others may not have the same experience. It is important to know your body and know what it needs to be healthy. When you take this personalized approach to health you will do best!