Coconut oil is sold as a health food. The world's largest heart health organization, however, has said that coconut oil is as unhealthy as beef dripping and butter.
Coconut Oil Packed With Saturated Fat
In its updated advice, the American Heart Association said that coconut oil is packed with saturated fat that can increase bad cholesterol.
The AHA said that 82 percent of the fat present in coconut oil is saturated. Diets that are high in saturated fats can boost levels of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol in the blood, which is associated with clogged arteries and elevated risk for heart disease and stroke.
The Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory cited data on saturated fat which found that coconut oil increased bad cholesterol in all of seven reviewed trials. The researchers did not even see a difference between the supposedly healthy coconut oil and other oils known to be high in saturated fat such as beef fat, butter and palm oil.
The 82 percent saturated fat content of coconut oil is, in fact, more than what is present in butter, which only has 63 percent saturated fat; beef fat, which has 50 percent, and pork lard, which has 39 percent saturated fat.
While some claim that the fat in coconut oil is better than other saturated fats, the AHA said that there are no good studies that can support this claim. Studies have revealed that, like other saturated fats, coconut oil can boost bad cholesterol level.
Because of the coconut oil's link to LDL cholesterol, the AHA advised to avoid using it.
"Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil," the AHA said in its advisory.
Coconut Oil As A Health Food
Coconut oil is touted for its supposed health benefits, and many consumers appear to be convinced it is healthy. One survey, for instance, showed that 72 percent of the American public rated coconut oil as healthy food.
This view, however, is not shared by many nutrition experts as only 37 percent of nutritionists think that coconut oil is a health food. The difference in views between the public and experts is possibly due to how coconut oil is marketed.
Advisory lead author Frank Sacks, from Harvard School of Public Health, said that people are quick to believe in trends that are not supported by scientists.
He said that the health benefits of coconut are not likely pushed by scientists. He said that it is possible that this is driven by manufacturers who want profit. It may also have something to do with some other countries' economic dependence on coconut oil.
"There has been a growing trend of media articles focusing on small studies suggesting some saturated fats are good for you. People advocating that eating butter and full-fat milk is beneficial. And coconut oil is a fad right now — but it is actually a saturated fat, which raises your LDL [low-density lipoprotein], so the AHA wanted to look at the issue again," Sacks said.