Coconut Oil Myth Debunked: A Rebuttal to the American Heart Association’s ResearchJune 23, 2017
I’m sure by now some of you have read the article that has circulated on the Internet about coconut oil being bad for you and how it shouldn’t be consumed. As soon as I saw this I did a major eye roll, because not only is this simply not true, but the article makes a very bold yet broad statement without much evidence to back up their claim. I am saddened that some people will stop using coconut oil after reading that article, or be deterred from trying it, but I hope that is not the case for you and I would like to offer a very consolidated alternative point of view.
The take-away point of this ridiculously defamatory article against our beloved coconut oil is that consumption of saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol leads to heart disease. In summary: saturated fat is bad. First of all, consuming healthy dietary fats (key word: HEALTHY) does impact our blood cholesterol levels, but MINIMALLY. Secondly and more importantly, it has never ever been proven that high cholesterol CAUSES heart disease. So basically, the crux of their argument, which is that coconut oil raises cholesterol levels and therefore can lead to heart disease, is not directly proven and is mere speculation based on loose association. It’s like that classic example of increased ice cream sales and higher incidence of drowning—does ice cream cause drowning, or do both phenomena of swimming and eating ice cream tend to increase in frequency during the summer? Everything that is “linked” needs to be looked at more critically—correlation does by no means equal causation.
Experts do agree that coconut oil is high in fat—they always have—but who said saturated fat is inherently bad? Like almost any health choice, it can either be beneficial or harmful depending on other lifestyle factors. If you’re diet consists of cookies and cakes but they are made with coconut oil—obviously you are not going to reap the health benefits of coconut oil and may very well fall into this category that the AHA somehow placed every coconut-oil consumer in. But if you’re eating a balanced and healthy diet supplemented with coconut oil, then there is no reason to be alarmed by this new viral article.
There is so much conflicting food research out there, with many “whistle-blowing” studies being funded by the competition (i.e. the sugar industry funding research for years on why fat is bad, and the dairy industry recently supporting studies on non-cow milk alternatives stunting growth). And worse, the public only hears simplified sound bites of this research, and therefore does not have the whole picture to be able to decide for themselves what is healthy and what is not. But don’t worry; I’m here to help you sift through fact and fiction.
According to the book “Eat the Yolks,” by nutrition and health expert Liz Wolfe:
“Studies show that people with high cholesterol actually tend to be healthier, and live longer, than those with low cholesterol. An analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated more than 20 studies with a combined pool of nearly 350,000 subjects for proof of a connection between saturated fat and heart disease. The investigation found that there was no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.”
SO, even though this study on coconut oil shows an increase in cholesterol, based on the evidence above, this doesn’t even matter. As I learned in a nutrition course I recently took, Balanced Bites Master Class with Liz Wolfe and Diane Sanfilippo, cholesterol is a symptom, not a problem. Cholesterol is a lipid present in the body that is there to respond to inflammation. Things like high stress, lack of sleep, and poor diets high in processed foods and sugar are some of the culprits of inflammation in the body, and are the real causes of heart disease. Therefore, the presence of high-cholesterol levels appears to be the surface link to heart disease. However, when you dig a bit deeper, it becomes evident that other lifestyle factors are responsible, and cholesterol is simply there as an intermediary trying to reduce the inflammation—it’s a classic case of shooting the messenger.
We can lower our cholesterol, but if we don’t change our lifestyle and address the root causes of the high cholesterol in the first place, then we’re not going to be any better off. And as far as coconut oil goes, if you’re not combining it with foods or habits that will exacerbate inflammation in the body, then you’re in the clear. Find the daily dosage that feels right for your body, and you will experience the intended benefits.
If you’re interested in learning more about why we need to consume saturated fats, like coconut oil, as well as why we need to avoid vegetable oils (unlike what the American Heart Association promotes) go to the homepage of my website and subscribe to my 7-day challenge to Conscious Health!
In Good Health,