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Coconut oil dangerous or a Superfood?

Please see the over 30 references at the bottom of this article.

Coconut oil, is it bad for you?  Does it cause heart disease?  High cholesterol? Heart attacks?  If you have these concerns it’s probably because either you read an article online or in a newspaper or you heard a report on the radio or television.  Or perhaps a friend or family member or even your doctor told you that coconut oil causes high cholesterol and heart disease.  If I just described you, then I want you to know we feel your concern is valid, but the recent report which comes from the American Heart Association (AHA) is NOT valid! 

The AHA released a re-run of an old report advising against the use of coconut oil, indicting or accusing it as raising LDL or bad cholesterol, claiming it clogs your arteries and causes heart disease.  They claim the problem is that coconut oil is almost 90% saturated fat, worse than butter at 63% and beef at 50%.  The AHA recommends that you eat no more than 6% of saturated fat.  However, what you’re not told is that in the same report the AHA states that “people who cut saturated fat out of their diet might not necessarily lower their heart disease risk.  That’s because people tend to fill the void with sugar, white flour and empty calories.”  Lastly, they suggest that you replace your coconut oil with vegetable oil, like corn oil and canola oil.  Not only is this advice extremely unhealthy, it’s also unscientific. 

 As the U.S. population gets more educated about the benefits of saturated fats and the harm posed by processed seed and vegetable oils, processed food manufacturers are looking for ways to trick us into eating the cheap, high-profit, damaging “food” they create and sell. That appears to be why they sponsor the American Heart Association. These new recommendations are from  industry special interest groups that promote low-fat, high-sugar diets (which actually cause inflammation, high cholesterol and heart disease) and then have the audacity to label them as “heart healthy.” In fact, the AHA executive team leading the charge against coconut oil is the same team who certified Chocolate Moose, a chocolate milk drink that contains more sugar than a can of soda, as being “heart healthy.”     

Sponsors of the AHA include a slew of pharmaceutical companies, including Amarin, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Eli Lily, Esai, Glaxo-Smith Kline, Merck, Pfizer, Regeneron/Sanofi, and Takeda, along with lobby groups like Ag Canada, the Canola Oil Council, and others. Would the American Heart Association, an organization that’s supposed to know what’s best for your heart, bend to big money? Well, you know the AHA Heart Check Mark that approves your cereal and canned soup as “heart healthy?” Big food companies can buy that “certification” for $1500-7500 per product, if they pass very slack guide lines.  Unfortunately, your health is being sold to BIG FOOD companies that are creating the need for BIG PHARMACEUTICALS!   

After decades of preaching low-fat, high-carb recommendations in the name of heart health, people are fatter and sicker than ever.  Larger studies do not support the AHA claims about low-fat diets.  Even the data from the 1960’s that the AHA relies so heavily upon, doesn’t support their own conclusions. Scientists recently re-analyzed data from one of the studies and discovered that the original researchers left out a bunch of information from the original analysis. A new analysis of all the data showed something shocking…

Every 30 point reduction in cholesterol came with a 22% increase in mortality. The very data used by the AHA in their marketing campaign actually shows that lowering cholesterol can kill you.   Other recent research shows people who followed AHA guidelines to eat more vegetable polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and less saturated fat didn’t improve. PUFAs don’t protect you from coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, or mortality like the AHA claims.  In fact, eating less saturated fat and more linoleic acid increased deaths from coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and deaths from all causes.

Multiple researchers using more data than the AHA cites, have categorically stated that there is no link between eating saturated fat and heart disease or diabetes.  A 2017 The British Medical Journal stated “found no association between saturated fat and coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, or type two diabetes in healthy adults.”  According to the experts who wrote the review, the treatment of heart disease requires “an urgent paradigm shift” and “despite popular belief among doctors and the public, the conceptual model of dietary saturated fat clogging a pipe is just plain wrong.

So what is the truth? What does the scientific research show?

Populations That Eat a Lot of Coconut Oil Are Healthy- In some parts of the world, coconut is a dietary staple that people have thrived on for many generations. The best example of such a population is the Tokelauans, which live in the South Pacific. They eat over 60% of their calories from coconuts and are the biggest consumers of saturated fat in the world. These people are in great health, with no evidence of heart disease.  Another example of a population that eats a lot of coconut and remains in excellent health is the Kitavans. Bottom Line: Plenty of populations around the world have thrived for multiple generations eating massive amounts of coconut fat.  If coconut oil causes heart disease how can this be? 

Cholesterol is not all the same.  The current routine lab panel for cholesterol tests you for HDL or good cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol.  But there is more to the story.  It is true that Saturated fats, like coconut oil can increase the bad cholesterol a little but it also increases the good cholesterol more.  Ultimately it is the ratio of total cholesterol divided by your good cholesterol that is a good predictor of heart disease whereas LDL by itself is not.  You want that number under 3. i.e. a total cholesterol of 300 and HDL of 100 would equal a ratio of 3.  A total cholesterol of 210 and a HDL of 35 would equal a ratio of 6.  Since coconut oil increases the HDL more than it increases LDL, it improves your ratio and decrease heart disease.

Another thing that typically is not measured by your doctor is cholesterol particle size.  LDL or bad cholesterol comes in different sizes.  Big fluffy particles, think of a big fluffy pancake and small dense particle, think of an almond.  The big fluffy particles are harmless because they are too big and soft to penetrate your arterial walls, but the small dense ones do penetrate the artery walls and cause blockage of your arteries. In fact, small LDL particles actually triple your risk of heart disease.   Coconut oil increases the big fluffy particles and decreases the small dense particles again decreasing heart disease.  Furthermore, an increase in Small LDL particles is caused by high-carb, low-fat diets and is improved when you add fat back to the diet, including saturated fat.  On the other hand, sugar lowers HDL, good cholesterol.   Other studies found lipid profiles improve on high-fat diets containing coconut oil. Researchers concluded it wasn’t saturated fat from coconuts that negatively impacted cholesterol profile. Instead, the coconut oil’s overall effect raised HDL while lowering triglycerides and small LDL cholesterol particles, which is definitely a good thing.

Again, total cholesterol is not an accurate predictor of heart disease or stroke. Inflammation is the culprit for most diseases, and coconut oil is highly anti-inflammatory.  In a study in India, the high levels of antioxidants present in virgin coconut oil reduced inflammation and healing arthritis more effectively than leading medications.   In another recent study, coconut oil that was harvested with only medium heat was found to suppress inflammatory cells. It worked as both an analgesic and anti-inflammatory.  A key here is that the coconut oil was processed with low heat, that’s why we recommend and carry coconut oil that is centrifuged, another words extracted with no heat. Don’t be fooled by a low price, damaged coconut oil will damage your heart but coconut oil that is the way God created it is heart healthy and that is the coconut oil we use and have for purchase in the office.

If your blood work finds you have high cholesterol, ask your health care provider to dig deeper to see what’s really going on. Ask the right questions and most importantly, get the right tests! You should request a particle size test to check for cholesterol particle size and number. Other cholesterol tests are simply outdated. A routine, regular cholesterol test won’t reveal particle size.  The tests you’ll want to ask for are either an NMR Lipid Panel from LabCorp, that is the one we use, or the Cardio IQ Test from Quest Diagnostics. Those are the only tests to really know what’s going on with your cholesterol. Optimal results will show plenty of safe, light, fluffy, big particles with minimal small, dense, artery-damaging particles.

So for heart health, combine healthy fats with a no-added-sugar diet and you have an effective strategy to normalize cholesterol while reducing your risk for heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and numerous other chronic conditions. In one study, researchers showed that on a low-carb diet that was higher in saturated fats, blood levels of saturated fat were lower. That’s because dietary saturated fats do not raise dangerous blood saturated fats – sugar and refined carbs do!  They also found people on a higher saturated-fat diet had lower levels of inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as a better cholesterol profile.

Other studies confirm carbs worsen blood levels of the even chained saturated-fats, which cause heart disease. These carbs drive your liver to create more fat in your blood, a process called lipogenesis triggered by alcohol, soda, sugar-sweetened drinks, starches and sugars.   Whole, healthy-fat foods like butter, meat or cheese do not increase this process.

Also take note that recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines finally stopped recommending lowering cholesterol and dietary fat. In fact, the new guidelines don’t emphasize any limit on total dietary fat or cholesterol, which is a complete reversal on governmental advice from 35 years ago.

To date, there are over 1,500 studies proving coconut oil to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Coconut oil benefits and uses go beyond what most people realize.  Research has finally uncovered the secrets to this amazing fruit; namely healthy fats called medium-chain triglyceride fatty acids (MCT’s), these unique fats include:

  • Caprylic acid
  • Lauric acid
  • Capric acid

And around 62% of the oils in coconut are made up of these 3 healthy fatty acids.

Most of the fats that we consume take longer to digest, but MCTs found in coconut oil provide the perfect source of energy because they only have to go through a 3 step process to be turned into fuel vs. other fats go through a 26 step process!

Unlike long-chain fatty acids  found in plant based oils, MCTs are:

  • Easier to digest
  • Not readily stored as fat
  • Are anti-microbial and anti-fungal
  • Smaller in size, allowing easier cell permeability for immediate energy
  • Processed by the liver, which means that they are immediately converted to energy instead of being stored as fat

Below are over 30 references for you to check out regarding the many health benefits of coconut oil, including the fact that it is healthy for your heart and arteries!

Belief that saturated fat clogs arteries is just plain wrong - British Medical Journal

Saturated Fat does not clog the arteries: Coronary heart disease is a chronic inflammatory condition, the risk of which can be effectively reduced with lifestyle interventions

Coconut Oil Facts and Nutritional Information

Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease

Apparent absence of stroke and ischaemic heart disease in a traditional Melanesian island: a clinical study in Kitava.

Cholesterol, coconuts, and diet on Polynesian atolls: a natural experiment: the Pukapuka and Tokelau island studies.

Thermic effect of medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides in man.

Postprandial thermogenesis in lean and obese subjects after meals supplemented with medium-chain and long-chain triglycerides.

Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and urinary catecholamines of humans consuming low-to-moderate amounts of medium-chain triglycerides: a dose-response study in a human respiratory chamber.

Fatty Acids and Derivatives as Antimicrobial Agents

Equivalence of lauric acid and glycerol monolaurate as inhibitors of signal transduction in Staphylococcus aureus.

In vitro antimicrobial properties of coconut oil on Candida species in Ibadan, Nigeria.

The effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet on mood, hunger, and other self-reported symptoms.

Covert manipulation of the ratio of medium- to long-chain triglycerides in isoenergetically dense diets: effect on food intake in ad libitum feeding men.

Influence of medium-chain and long-chain triacylglycerols on the control of food intake in men.

The ketogenic diet for the treatment of childhood epilepsy: a randomised controlled trial

Ketogenicity of soybean oil, coconut oil and their respective fatty acids for the chick.

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) ketogenic therapy.

Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity.

Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation.

Influence of virgin coconut oil on blood coagulation factors, lipid levels and LDL oxidation in cholesterol fed Sprague–Dawley rats

A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis.

Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. 

Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation.

Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study

Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study

Effect of oil pulling on halitosis and microorganisms causing halitosis: A randomized controlled pilot trial

Hypometabolism as a therapeutic target in Alzheimer's disease

Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults.

Study of ketogenic agent AC-1202 in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a randomized double-bind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial.

Ketone Bodies as a Therapeutic for Alzheimer's Disease

An open-label pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of virgin coconut oil in reducing visceral adiposity