Is Coconut Oil really Bad for you?

coconut oil

 

Coconut oil has made a big splash in the news lately as a “presidential advisory” from the American Heart Association was released last month that claimed saturated fats, such as coconut oil, cause heart disease.   To make things even more confusing there are numerous experts and doctors weighing in on this advisory with conflicting opinions.  So, should you eat coconut oil, or should you avoid it altogether to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease?  Let us give you our opinion.

The Research

When we hear something in the media about a new research study that proves something (especially when it’s related to the topic of health), it is very important to question the source for the research, and how the research conclusion was formed.  Part of what we do is to educate our patients.  So if there are conflicting media stories about something like coconut oil, we’re happy to go through the research with you to help you understand.  The question about healthy fats and saturated fats is one we hear a lot.  So let’s look at what leading doctors have to say about this topic.  

 

What we Know

In his response to the coconut oil debate, Dr. Mark Hyman stated that there is not one study that specifically demonstrates that coconut oil causes heart disease.  Conversely, there is lots of research which shows us that a low fat diet can increase our risk for cardiovascular disease.  Dr. Nina Teicholz, who spent and the last decade as a cardiologist researching this topic stated “we can say that the AHA paper is an outlier, with at least nine other expert reviews finding weak to nonexistent evidence for the link of saturated fats and heart disease” (see reference 1 below)

 

The idea of the low fat diet started in the 1920’s and after half a century, there is no research showing the link between saturated fats and cardiovascular events like a heart attack or stroke.  Here is the conclusion from the most recent study from the British Medical Journal “Available evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes. Findings from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment add to growing evidence that incomplete publication has contributed to overestimation of the benefits of replacing saturated fat with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid” (see reference 4 below”)

When the whole low fat diet trend kicked off years ago, instead of seeing people lose weight and have less heart attacks, we instead saw rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease increase.  How could this be the case?  When fat was removed from foods, carbohydrates were greatly increased to take the place of fat and give food more flavour.  But this only led to an increase in health problems.

We also know that HDL is beneficial for the body and helps to reduce inflammation.  The saturated fat in coconut oil raises the HDL in our body more than any other type of oil.  Coconut oil also has many other benefits such as reversing insulin resistance, increasing cognitive function, and is a great anti-fungal and anti-microbial.  We also know that coconut oil is one of the best fats to cook with, aside from ghee, because of it’s high temperature tolerance.

So, what about coconut oil?

So, what does this mean – should you use coconut oil, or not? Coconuts have many benefits, and have been eaten by humans for centuries without problem.  The key is that they are part of a healthy diet,  not the only part of a diet.  We strongly believe in a varied diet with food items being eaten on a rotational basis.  So while we like coconut oil and all the benefits it has to offer, it is not the only healthy food source available to us.

 

Here are a few resources to look up and read more about the topic

  1. Medscape article:Saturated Fats and CVD: AHA Convicts, We Say Acquit.  Written by Dr. Nina Teicholz MD and Eric Thorn MD
  2. Dr. Mark Hyman: Is Coconut Oil Bad for Your Cholesterol?
  3. Read the book: Always Hungry by Dr. David ludwig MD, PhD
  4. Recent study in BMJ: Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73)

 

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