You might have heard about the recent new study from the American Heart Association regarding coconut oil. Depending on the news outlet reporting on the study, the findings promote the consumption of vegetable oils instead of oils that contain higher amounts of saturated fats.
The controversy is the recommendation of certain cooking oils over others because of their saturated fat content. The current mainstream hypothesis is that oils such as canola, corn, or vegetable have a better nutritional profile and health-impact than oils such as coconut oil, ghee, or animal fat. This leads many to conclude that coconut oil, ghee, and animal fats contain higher amounts of saturated fats, and are, therefore, unhealthy. This is not true!
The claim is that they are unhealthy because it is believed that saturated fats contribute to higher levels of cholesterol or LDL. It is the AHA’s opinion that high cholesterol levels in the blood can contribute to the risk of heart disease, which is one of the top diseases that claim many lives each year. However, more and more people are considering the benefits of a diet high in saturated fats when compared to others. One such statistic is the leading factors of mortality being heart disease, even though Western medicine has advocated for a diet low in cholesterol and fats and high in carbs for decades. However, this has pushed us further into the epidemic of Diabetes and increased inflammation. The real danger is when cholesterol is oxidized, which has been shown to be because of high carb, high sugar diets, not because of saturated fats.
This has led researchers to look into the claims that low cholesterol, and as a result, saturated fats, are dangerous to heart health. One such study is the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, which occurred in the late 60 to early 70’s. It still holds validity for the process and documentation for which patients health and diets were tracked. Around 9000 patients in mental hospitals in Minnesota for years, their health, and diet was tracked. One of the highlights regarding cholesterol levels was surprising that patients with lower cholesterol levels had a measurable increase in mortality.
A more recent analysis of the data provided a mortality risk increase when the cholesterol levels decreased in the patients. The data still holds up. Furthermore, several studies have shown that there is no risk factor of consuming saturated fat and in an increase in coronary artery disease. In fact, saturated fat from extra virgin coconut oil showed to reduce waist circumference in this study done at Nutrition Hospitals in Brazil. It concluded, “that a diet rich in extra virgin coconut oil seems to favor the reduction of WC and the increase of HDL-C concentrations, aiding with secondary prevention for CAD patients.”
The idea that all cholesterol is bad has been proven incorrect. Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance in the body that has a major purpose, meaning that foods such as coconut oil and saturated fats provide the body with needed nutrients that promote hormone, nervous system and brain health. Saturated fats and Omega 3 fatty acids provide the body with many benefits, including the ability to fight inflammation throughout the body. Processed oils such as canola, soy and corn oil, contain higher amounts of inflammatory Omega-6s, a fat related to inflammation and inferior nutritional benefit.
Unprocessed, extra-virgin coconut oil can be considered one of the healthiest cooking oils. It retains a lot of the benefits that it originally has and has a high heat tolerance, without oxidizing. It’s not just healthy for your body nutritionally; it is also healthy for your skin. Not only does it make your inside feel good, but it also makes your outside look good!
Ramsden et al. (2016). Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-1973). British Medical Journal, 353
Cardoso et al. (2015). A coconut extra virgin oil-rich diet increases HDL cholesterol and decreases waist circumference and body mass in coronary artery disease patients. Nutrition Hospitals, 32(5), 2144-2152. doi: 10.3305/nh.2015.32.5.9642.
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