You’ve likely seen the article released by the American Heart Association saying, “Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy.” I want to formally address this as I know this can be very confusing for consumers!
First of all, always recognize how media works and be a healthy skeptic with media headlines. Coconut has become a popular word in the last few years and the media knows this. It’s the new “darling” of the year, the item that has become so popular you find it in everything and assume it is healthy. Coconut milk, coconut chips, coconut butter, made with coconut, coconut shampoo, coconut etc. You get the picture. Marketers know that we as consumers associate the new darling with health and know how to draw us in to their headlines. They received a lot of attention, sparked a lot of conversation, a lot of followers to their newspapers/websites… mission accomplished for them.
Let’s dive deeper into the article and the study…
If you read the article, it’s actually more about saturated fat, LDL and heart disease. The debate of saturated fat is nothing new, and unfortunately goes back to some poor research done primarily by a man named Ancel Keys starting in the 40s and 50s. In the recent news headlines they used our darling, “coconut oil” to grab attention, like they so know how to do, even when the title of the actual study is, “Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association.”
The article specifically talks about coconut oil, but the study reviewed existing research on many dietary fats (one of them being coconut oil) and their relationship with cholesterol and heart disease. Yes, saturated fats can increase LDL and HDL. In fact, saturated fat is great for increasing healthy HDL. Saturated fat actually has a positive impact on the LDL and HDL ratio. Unfortunately, this study does not look into LDL particle size or number which is really important to give you a complete picture of cholesterol and cardiac health (see articles below if you want more detail on this). A basic cholesterol panel, though a starting place, doesn’t tell you quite enough about your cholesterol and cardiac health.
Hopefully, after learning about inflammation in the Diet Beta Test, you can trust that the recommendation (from the article) to use vegetable oils instead is completely backwards. Vegetable oil is highly processed. It is unnatural to obtain oils from most of the vegetables like soybean and corn oil. These oils are rich in omega 6, which is causing an imbalance of Omega 3:Omega 6 in most people, further leading to more inflammation!
A big component of WHY cholesterol is high in the first place is rooted in inflammation so we certainly don’t want to add to that with inflammatory oils.
I’ve provided some additional resources below for you to do some research, if desired Unfortunately because of this article, many people will stick to their vegetable oil loving ways, physicians will remember the headlines without digging deeper, and marketers will continue to find ways to test us savvy consumers…. So, the most important point we want to make is to always read these headlines with some skepticism and do your own research!
Additional resources regarding saturated fat, LDL and cardiac health.
Dr. Ronald Krauss on LDL Cholesterol, Particle Size, Heart Disease & Atherogenic Dyslipidemia