Have you heard? The American Heart Association just released news that coconut oil is bad for you…
The author of the study said that coconut oil increases the risk of heart disease. Funny enough, if you read the article all the way through, you will see that it also mentions that it is subjective to each person and that cutting saturated fat may not actually reduce the risk of heart attack. This sensational headline is designed to get people reading the article, but seems to contradict itself by the end. It also mentions that sugar and junk food are the main culprits for heart disease. The article uses MCT oil as it’s main way of bashing coconut oil. MCT oil is a more expensive, highly processed, fractionated form of coconut oil used by athletes and body builders to increase metabolism. MCT oil is not coconut oil.
All Saturated Fats Are Not Equal
The benefits of coconut oil are essentially one of the most debated health topics to date. Over the past 20 years that I have been eating coconut oil, it has bounced back and forth from being either on the healthiest or unhealthiest foods. Though, for people in the know about health and who are studying and pursuing natural diets, coconut oil is a hero. One of the reasons there is so much confusion as to wether coconut oil is healthy is because coconut oil is a saturated fat. Other saturated fats include animal fats, butter, cheese, brazil nuts, and chocolate. Saturated fats have been known as the bad guy for heart health for many years. However, there is new scientific evidence that it is actually the combination of sugar and high carbohydrates (processed sugar, white flour) with fats that can cause deadly reactions such as heart disease and cancer. This is the reason that the low carbohydrate, higher fat diet, which I have been promoting for years, can be an excellent long-term, heart healthy eating program.
Sugar-Related Heart Disease
In an article in Harvard Medical Health Publications, Julie Corliss sites the scientific evidence backing sugar being related to heart disease. Corliss says “Over the course of the 15-year study on added sugar and heart disease, participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar. Overall, the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of sugar in the diet—and that was true regardless of a person’s age, sex, physical activity level, and body-mass index (a measure of weight).”
The Important Distinction
Even though coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is comprised of 80% medium chain fatty acids (vs. the long chain fatty acids in saturated animal fats). Medium chain fatty acids (MCT’s) are readily available to be absorbed and used by the body for healing. Long-chain fatty acids must be broken down before the body can absorb them, the short and medium-chain fatty acids abundant in coconut oil are easy for the body to digest and are a source of quick energy. Coconut oil is the only fat that can be used instantly for fuel by the body so it can be a great pre-workout food. Not to mention, 55% of fatty acids in the saturated fat in coconut oil, is lauric acid. Lauric acid is highly available in breast milk and is converted to a substance called monolaurin, which aids to increase the baby’s immunity and helps to fight viruses and diseases.
In his recent book, Fat for Fuel, Dr. Joseph Mercola sites numerous studies of the healing benefits of coconut oil. Here are the facts, directly from his blog post in 2016
- Supports proper thyroid function – Unlike soy oil and other vegetable oils, coconut oil does not interfere with thyroid function. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation that may lead to hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
- Promotes heart health – Animal and human studies found that heart disease risk factors such as total, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels were greatly improved by taking coconut oil
- In particular, coconut oil’s saturated fats may actually increase “good” HDL cholesterol, while also helping convert “bad” LDL cholesterol into a less harmful form. (More on this later)
- Promotes healthy brain function – Researchers found that ketones may work as an alternative energy source for malfunctioning brain cells, which has been found to reduce symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease patients.3
Heart Disease Bottom Line
“There is a misconception spread among many people that coconut oil is not good for heart health. This is because it contains a lot of saturated fats. In reality, it is quite beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in actively preventing various heart problems like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Coconut oil does not lead to increase in LDL levels, and it reduces the incidence of injury and damage to arteries and therefore helps in preventing atherosclerosis. The study suggests that intake of coconut oil may help in maintaining healthy lipid profiles in pre-menopausal women.”
I can tell you that from my experience of eating 2 or more Tbsp of coconut oil a day, that I have not ever had a negative reaction to it. My cholesterol levels are great and I have never had any heart issues.
When it comes to your health, be aware that there are always two sides to every story. Keep doing your research, keep testing things out on your own body, and in the end, you will find the best diet for your own unique body.