Yes. Coconut Oil Is Still Good for You. Here Are 4 Studies That Suggest Why.
You’ve probably seen the coconut oil articles spreading around social media. With headlines like “Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy” and “Coconut oil is out” it’s no wonder people are confused.
These articles were spurred by an American Heart Association (AHA) report that revisited their dietary guidelines on fat and cholesterol. Overall, they didn’t really say anything new since they’ve been incorrectly blaming saturated fats for cardiovascular disease (CVD) for decades.
But in this AHA report, they emphasized the use of polyunsaturated fats over saturated fats. And what shocked the health and wellness industry further, is that they recommended dangerous, inflammatory vegetable oils over coconut oil.
I want to take a moment and set the record straight about some of the key points in the article.
- Coconut oil IS high in saturated fat – One of the reasons the AHA recommended against using coconut oil is because of the high saturated fat content. Coconut oil is 82% saturated fat. As with nearly all foods, you should eat coconut oil in moderation. MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) Oil, are a component of coconut oil and are also beneficial to your health.
The report does recommend that 6 percent of your diet come saturated fats, which would be about two tablespoons of coconut oil. That’s a good amount of fat and coconut oil.
- Saturated fat does NOT cause cardiovascular disease, SUGAR DOES – The idea that cardiovascular disease is caused by saturated fat clogging the arteries is an incorrect concept that began in the 1950’s and has somehow stuck around. This notion causes the entire food industry to switch to “Fat- Free” and consequently increase sugar content in foods. The results are obvious — cardiovascular disease rate keeps climbing up and the rate of obesity increased dramatically since the implementation of the “Fat-Free” frenzy.
Numerous studies have proven that saturated fat does not cause cardiovascular disease. It’s inflammation that causes cardiovascular disease. And it’s time to set the record straight. Diets that are high in sugars and simple carbohydrates and low-fat cause inflammation, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
- LDL cholesterol is not the only factor in cardiovascular disease risk – The reasoning the AHA had against recommending coconut oil was that it increases your LDL cholesterol, “a known cause of CVD.”
They then said that coconut oil had “no known offsetting favorable effects.” This isn’t true. Coconut oil raises your HDL cholesterol levels, which studies have shown reduces CVD risk. More importantly, your LDL to HDL ratio is a better indicator when examining your risk for CVD than LDL alone.
- Vegetable oils are terrible for you – Vegetable oils are inflammatory, contain pesticides, are mostly GMO, and are unstable.
Polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils are packed with omega-6 fatty acids which are inflammatory. While you do need some omega-6s, many Americans eat up to 50 times more omega-6s than they should and vegetable oils found in processed foods and fast food restaurants are one of the major culprits.
Vegetable oils are also bad for you because they break down readily under heat when cooking. Polyunsaturated fats are easily oxidized when heated meaning they will react with free radicals in the body and can cause cell membrane and DNA damage.
Now that we understand where a lot of the confusion surrounding this report came from, let’s take a look at the ways coconut oil is good for you. And remember, as with most things in life – moderation is key.
4 Studies That Suggest Coconut Oil is Good for You
Studies on coconut oil are typically relatively small and require a little interpretation and gentle extrapolation for the purpose of making your own decision on whether or not you’ll incorporate coconut oil into your diet. Overall coconut oil is a safe food that should be experimented with to find if it’s best for you.
1. Coconut oil is better than soybean oil
A study on the effects of coconut oil versus soybean oil on 40 obese women found that coconut oil reduced waist circumference, while the waist circumference of those that used soybean oil slightly increased.
Both groups consumed about two tablespoons of their respective oils each day, walked 50 minutes, and followed similar low-calorie diets.
While both groups lost about two pounds, the coconut oil group had an increase in the “good” HDL cholesterol and a decrease in C-reactive protein (an inflammation marker). The soybean oil group experienced an increase in the “bad” LDL cholesterol, a decrease in HDL cholesterol, and a decrease in the C-reactive protein.
What this means for you: Try switching out any vegetable oils you use for coconut oil and note the changes. Adding coconut oil to your diet could be especially helpful if you are overweight or struggling to keep inflammation down.
2. Simply adding coconut oil to your diet (with no other changes) may increase weight loss
A study of 20 overweight men and women consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil each day for four weeks without changing anything else about their diet or exercise routines. The men lost an average of 1.2 pounds and 1 inch off their waist and the women lost an average of 0.5 pounds and 1.2 inches off their waist.
While a study of twenty people isn’t large enough to determine direct cause and effect, it does suggest this is a simple and safe experiment you can try. Just watch your sugars and carbs while doing that.
What this means for you: Why not do this yourself? Try adding two tablespoons of coconut oil to your diet each day for four weeks without changing anything else and see what happens. You may find coconut oil to be beneficial to you.
3. Coconut oil is great for natural dental hygiene
Coconut pulling is an age-old Ayurvedic technique thought to help fight plaque-forming bacteria in your saliva. A study of 60 people swished with either coconut oil or chlorhexidine mouthwash and their bacteria levels were measured before and after. Both mouth rinses significantly reduced the Streptococcus mutans bacteria.
Because there was no difference between the two washes and chlorhexidine is a disinfectant – coconut oil is a great natural replacement.
What this means for you: Add coconut pulling to your dental hygiene routines for a natural method that promotes good teeth health.
4. Coconut based, high saturated fat diet may improve LDL/HDL ratios in women
A study that had 25 women compare three diets (one high in coconut oil, one low in coconut oil, and one high in polyunsaturated fats) revealed that the best of the three diets for having the healthiest LDL/HDL ratio was the high saturated fat, coconut oil diet.
What this means for you: Again, a study of 25 women is not enough to be conclusive but it does suggest that it might be a good idea for you to see how coconut oil impacts your personal health, especially if you are struggling to maintain a good LDL to HDL ratio.
The Importance of Interpreting Data for Yourself
Beyond the irresponsible and misleading arguments regarding the cause of cardiovascular disease and the strange attack on coconut oil, the AHA is recommending polyunsaturated vegetable oils, which is downright dangerous.
A big concern is that the – American Heart Association – packs authority. And they’ve published a poorly researched, grossly misguiding report. One that’s being repeated across mainstream news outlets across the country.
It seems surprising that the AHA would recommend vegetable oils so freely when there are mountains of data to suggest that it’s bad for your health. But then at the bottom of the report, you can see that some of the funding for the AHA and the report come from The Canola Oil Council. That’s concerning.
I encourage you to take information such as the AHA reports and keep a critical eye. Our bodies are fundamentally similar but also unique in how we metabolize and respond to environmental inputs.
Determine through careful personal experimentation whether or not adding coconut oil to your diet is good for you. Listening to your body and noting reactions is one of the best ways you can make the shift from treating symptoms and illnesses to encouraging optimal health.
Elena Klimenko, MD, a certified functional medicine physician, will help you choose the right course of action to improve your nutrition. In her practice, she uses herbal and food-based supplements to help patients address the root cause of their medical symptoms. Call today to find out more about functional medicine and speak with Dr. Klimenko at 212-696- HEAL(4325).
If you want more information about Functional Medicine, contact us to receive a FREE copy of Dr. Klimenko’s E-book.
The Four Studies