In an 'Eat This, Not That' world, medical experts are constantly conducting new studies that challenge the status of healthy foods. The newest superfood on the chopping block is coconut oil. In a recent report, the American Heart Association advised that coconut oil is bad for your health - and it always has been.
Despite previous reports about coconut oil being a healthy fat, the AHA found that coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol - bad cholesterol. When the Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory examined data on various saturated fats, they found that coconut oil didn't stand out from the rest. In fact, coconut oil is 82 percent saturated fat, which is higher than that of butter at 63 percent. Being practically all fat, it should be avoided with other animal fats like pork lard and beef fat.
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While saturated fats are fine in moderation - recommended at 6 percent to lower cholesterol - an increase in LDL cholesterol means an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. According to the advisory, cardiovascular disease is "the leading global cause of death, accounting for 17.3 million deaths per year."
It recommends increasing the intake of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, while decreasing the intake of saturated fats, to reduce the risk of of CVD. Test trials have shown that replacing your dietary saturated fats with oils like polyunsaturated vegetable oil are able to reduce CVD by as much as 30 percent.
So why have we been praising coconut oil as a superfood? The main author of the study Dr. Frank Sacks - Harvard professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention - told USA Today that "he has no idea why people think coconut oil is healthy. It's almost 100% fat."
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The answer, however, probably has to do with the medium chain triglycerides. Coconut oil has the greatest concentration of medium chain fatty acids. One study has found that the intake of coconut oil, when compared to that of olive oil, increased weight loss. Thanks to its high concentration of MCTs, coconut oil as part of a weight loss diet was found to not increase metabolic risks. That means coconut oil in moderation means a slimmer waste line.
While all saturated fats should be consumed in moderation, eating some is necessary to help the body absorb nutrients properly. The key is maintaining a healthy diet rich in nutrients. Switching over to unsaturated fats from health foods such as avocados and nuts can actually lower cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
For all you coconut oil lovers out there, it may be time to consider plant oils like olive oil. While we love our coconut oil, maybe it's best to keep it as a moisturizer and makeup remover.
This post was originally published on June 29, 2017.