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Coconut Oil Isn’t Bad For You

Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

Coconut oil has become pretty popular is the past couple of years. It has become a considered health food and is marketed as so. However, just like with any health food, people search for reasons as to why it is unhealthy. Health and nutrition are constantly evolving fields, so it is only natural to seek out new findings.

Coconut being a “fairly” new health product means that the research and findings are still in early stages. Many studies have given mixed results as to whether or not it can be deemed “healthy”.

The main reason that it is even up for debate as “unhealthy” is due to the fact that coconut oil is a saturated fat. Saturated fat has long been known as a contributor to high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Saturated fats are a staple of our diet, we just have to monitor the amount we consume.

However, just because it is a saturated fat, does not mean that coconut oil is necessarily bad for you.

I’ll explain.

It’s a plant

Most forms of saturated fat are derived from animals. Coconut oil however, is from a plant. This creates a huge difference in the molecular makeup that it brings to the table.

“Experts” see that it is saturated and make their judgement from there. This is considered jumping to conclusions, as the entire absorption and usage of coconut oil is different from animal saturated fats.

One of the main differences in the structure of coconut oil, is that it contains lauric acid. Lauric acid is a medium-chain triglyceride, and it is found predominantly in coconut oil. It is also found in human breast milk as well as some goat’s milk; breast feeding is good for the human body in early developmental stages; and goat’s milk is a better option for humans than cow’s milk(so how could it be bad for you). Lauric acid has been shown to increase serum cholesterol levels, however it specifically increases High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol.

Its effect on our cholesterol

The entire reason there is a supposed risk with coconut oil is that it could have an effect on our blood lipid profiles. Everyone knows that having too high cholesterol can lead to heart problems, especially when you have too much of the bad cholesterol (or Low Density Lipoproteins [LDL] ).

With that being said, in a meta analysis looking at the health effects of coconut oil they found many studies showing an increase in serum cholesterol. What was interesting about these findings was a little bit of inconsistency in the trials. Multiple different studies gave different results. However, a recurring result was an increase or decrease in total cholesterol, an increase in high density lipoproteins, and either an increase, decrease, or no change to low-density lipoproteins.

They also found a study that put coconut oil and a few other vegetable oils (soybean and sesame) against each other. In this study there were similar differences in the cholesterol profiles. The total cholesterol was lower with the sesame and soybean oil, but the HDL and LDL did not change in comparison with the coconut oil. That’s great, but the biggest difference was that the soybean and sesame oils significantly increased the total triglycerides; high triglyceride levels indicate risk for cardiovascular issues and early death.

Let’s draw a conclusion

Taking this information (with a grain of salt of course) we can come to a logical conclusion. Coconut oil may not be the pinnacle of health that it may claim to be. However, that does not mean that it is bad for you either. We can make an educated decision that it is better than some oils such as canola, soybean, and other vegetable oils (high omega-6s; increased triglycerides). As for saturated fat, it is a better option than some animal products such as butter.

As far as it creating a risk for heart disease, I think there is nothing to worry about. More research must be done! But, if we take some of the data that is present we can conclude that it is not bad for you. The data suggests that coconut oil can increase cholesterol, but mainly increases you HDL levels. Its effect on LDL levels is still up to debate, but you aren’t eating a diet composed of only coconut oil! If you are eating a healthy diet full of fiber and being physically active, these are two things that significantly lower LDL levels. With that in mind, if you are consuming coconut oil, eating fiber, and being active; then logically that should create the perfect storm to: 1. increase HDL substantially 2. lower LDL to healthy levels 3. get the useful benefits of coconut oil with no adverse health effects.

So using the information provided, and not demonizing coconut oil just because of it being a saturated fat; we can come to a conclusion that it is not all that bad. In my opinion you should be more worried about the mass consumption of sugars in our diets before you hop on the coconut oil hating bandwagon. Majority of studies that are DESIGNED to make fats look bad, are usually funded by mass sugar companies to cover up their tracks anyways!