After reading a number of comments and articles in response to this "news," I decided it was time to jump into the fray and clear up some of this confusion!
I have written about coconut oil before, but it has been a while. However, none of the research has substantially changed since then, so why would there be a backlash against coconut oil now? That I can't answer, but I can address some of the concerns raised by the recent article.
"Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil."
(Interestingly enough, the USA Today article goes on to say that "cutting saturated fat doesn't necessarily decrease heart attack risk"...)
There are a whole lot of issues with the above statement. I will break them down for you here:
1. "Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol..."
First of all, coconut oil DOESN'T increase LDL cholesterol - at least not as much as it increases HDL - the good kind of cholesterol!
Here's what Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, author of the well-researched Eat Fat, Get Thin has to say about coconut oil and cholesterol:
...One study of over 130,000 people who had heart attacks over 5 years showed that 75 percent had normal LDL and 50 percent had optimal LDL cholesterol. But only 10 percent had normal HDL or the protective cholesterol. Guess what raises HDL? Saturated fat. And coconut oil raises it the most of any saturated fat. And what lowers it? A low-fat, high-starch, and high-sugar diet. We need cholesterol and saturated fat for the health of every cell membrane, for your brain cells, your sex hormones and more. Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, it is the band-aid that tries to repair the arteries when damage occurs from a low-fat, high-starch, high sugar diet...
I have written numerous times and at length about the fallacy of cholesterol causing heart disease, so I won't go into much more about it here, but feel free to check out my previous posts on the topic. Even the 2015 U.S. governmental dietary guidelines announced the withdrawal of the warning against saturated fat, stating that “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” And if you're still not convinced, here is a review of 17 meta-analyses (reviews of numerous relevant studies) showing no link between saturated fat and heart disease.
It's time for the American Heart Association to get with the times and stop spouting decades-old and long-since-debunked myths about saturated fat!
3. "...and has no known offsetting favorable effects..."
Frank Sacks, the lead author on the AHA report, reportedly stated that he has "no idea" why people think coconut oil is healthy. So let's give him some answers, shall we?
Besides its HDL-boosting capabilities, coconut oil boasts a whole range of purported health benefits, with more being discovered all the time. Coconut oil has been shown to benefit those with Alzheimer's, Crohn's disease, and other mental and digestive disorders, as well as the following as listed by Dr. Mercola:
• 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.(1)
• 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.(2)
• 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)
• Gives your immune system a boost – The lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids, capric acid, and caprylic acid that coconut oil contains are known for their antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties.(4)
Regularly using it may help prevent colds/flus, and alleviate illnesses like hepatitis C, herpes and the Epstein-barr virus.(5)
• Helps promote weight loss – Coconut oil provides an excellent "fuel" for your body and stimulating your metabolism to help you shed excess body fat.
• Aids in digestion – This oil is easy on your digestive system, and will not produce an insulin spike in your bloodstream. The medium-chain fatty acids can also be absorbed easily in your digestive tract, compared to longer chain fatty acids found in polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
• Keeps candida yeast from wreaking havoc on your body – A study published in mSphere found that mice that were given coconut oil had a 10-fold drop in the colonization of Candida albicans yeast in their gut, compared to mice that were given soybean oil or beef tallow.(6)
• Promotes good oral health – One study found that massaging coconut oil on your gums for 10 minutes a day, for at least three weeks, has a significant effect on reducing plaque and decay-causing Streptococcus mutans.)7)
Coconuts and coconut oil have been consumed by various indigenous cultures around the world for hundreds of years, so if there was a problem, don't you think it would show in the health of these peoples? However, research has actually found the contrary:
...individuals in Polynesian populations such as those in Tokelau and Pukapuka, where people tend to eat a lot of coconut, were examined in light of their high saturated fat intake and low cholesterol and sucrose levels.
Researchers found that "vascular disease is uncommon in both populations and there is no evidence of the high saturated fat intake having a harmful effect."(10)
Another case in point is the Kitevan people in New Guinea, whose collective diet is untarnished by the food habits of the Western world. Besides eating a lot of tubers, fruit and fish, the people also consume coconut as a prominent staple.
None of the people involved in the study (11) reported stroke, sudden death, weakness, brain diseases, or chest pain related to heavy lifting. Coronary artery disease was nowhere to be found.
4. "...we advise against the use of coconut oil."
Okay, Mr. Sacks, you can "advise" all you want, but I, for one, will continue to enjoy my coconut oil (in moderation).
If you enjoy it as well, please don't be scared off by this recent "news story" or other sensational headlines about saturated fat based on decades-old science that has long-since been disproved.
By all means, do your research and get the facts (the real ones - not the "alternative" kind). When you do, I think you will find that the truth about coconut oil is much less scary than the headlines want you to believe.
To your (real) health!