By Elaina Love, Faculty Member here at the BodyMind Institute
Elaina Love's Raw Chef Certification
Elaina's Website: https://elainalove.com/
Have you heard? The American Heart Association just released news that coconut oil is bad for you…
The author of the study said that coconut oil increases the risk of heart disease. Funny enough, if you read the article all the way through, you will see that it also mentions that it is subjective to each person, and that cutting saturated fat may not actually reduce the risk of heart attack. This sensational headline is designed to get people reading the article but seems to contradict itself by the end. It also mentions that sugar and junk food are the main culprits for heart disease. The article uses MCT oil as its main way of bashing coconut oil. MCT oil is a more expensive, highly processed, fractionated form of coconut oil used by athletes and body builders to increase metabolism. MCT oil is not coconut oil.
All Saturated Fats Are Not Equal
The benefits of coconut oil are essentially one of the most debated health topics to date. Over the past 20 years that I have been eating coconut oil, it has bounced back and forth from being either on the healthiest or unhealthiest foods. Though for people in the know about health and who are studying and pursuing natural diets, coconut oil is a hero. One of the reasons there is so much confusion as to whether coconut oil is healthy is because coconut oil is a saturated fat. Other saturated fats include animal fats, butter, cheese, Brazil nuts, and chocolate. Saturated fats have been known as the bad guy for heart health for many years. However, there is new scientific evidence that it is actually the combination of sugar and high carbohydrates (processed sugar, white flour) with fats that can cause deadly reactions such as heart disease and cancer. This is the reason that the low carbohydrate, higher fat diet, which I have been promoting for years, can be an excellent long-term, heart healthy eating program.
Sugar-Related Heart Disease
In an article in Harvard Medical Health Publications, Julie Corliss cites the scientific evidence backing sugar being related to heart disease. Corliss says, “Over the course of the 15-year study on added sugar and heart disease, participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar. Overall, the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of sugar in the diet — and that was true regardless of a person’s age, sex, physical activity level, and body-mass index (a measure of weight).”
The Important Distinction
Even though coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is composed of 80% medium chain fatty acids (vs. the long chain fatty acids in saturated animal fats). Medium chain fatty acids (or Medium Chain Triglycerides — MCTs) are readily available to be absorbed and used by the body for healing. Long-chain fatty acids must be broken down before the body can absorb them; the short and medium-chain fatty acids abundant in coconut oil are easy for the body to digest and are a source of quick energy. Coconut oil is the only fat that can be used instantly for fuel by the body, so it can be a great pre-workout food. Not to mention, 55% of fatty acids in the saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid. Lauric acid is highly available in breast milk and is converted to a substance called monolaurin, which aids to increase the baby’s immunity and helps to fight viruses and diseases.
In his recent book, Fat for Fuel, Dr. Joseph Mercola cites numerous studies of the healing benefits of coconut oil. Here are the facts, directly from his blog post in 2016:
Heart Disease Bottom Line
“There is a misconception spread among many people that coconut oil is not good for heart health. This is because it contains a lot of saturated fats. In reality, it is quite beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in actively preventing various heart problems like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Coconut oil does not lead to an increase in LDL levels, and it reduces the incidence of injury and damage to arteries and therefore helps in preventing atherosclerosis. The study suggests that intake of coconut oil may help in maintaining healthy lipid profiles in pre-menopausal women.”