The debate on whether coconut oil is healthy or not has been ignited once again when the American Heart Association recently released a report advising against the use of the oil. The group argues that coconut oil is packed with saturated fat that can increase bad cholesterol and elevate heart disease risk.
But does coconut oil completely deserve the notoriety it has achieved since saturated fats were declared unhealthy decades ago?
Giving Saturated Fats The Thumbs Down
The matter was thought to be settled years ago when scientist Ancel Keys, who released the renowned “Seven Countries Study,” warned that all saturated fats, including coconut oil, were unhealthy.
Keys compared the diets and health outcomes of seven countries’ populations to arrive at the conclusion. Decades later, however, author Artemis Simopoulos reexamined Keys’s data and found that the guy misinterpreted the data by being unable to distinguish between omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
The recent AHA report highlighted the fact that 82 percent of fat in coconut oil is saturated. Diets high in saturated fats have been associated with LDL or bad cholesterol in the blood, which could lead to clogged arteries as well as a greater risk for heart disease and stroke.
In addition, the AHA belied claims that the fat in coconut oil is superior to other saturated fats, saying no good studies can vouch for the claim.
Today, a number of advocates that include the Weston A. Price Foundation promote the exact opposite of what Keys was saying: saturated fats are good for you, and they include coconut oil.
Some argued, too, that reports on the recent AHA study may only be part of the whole picture.
Studies Favoring Coconut Oil
HuffPost highlighted a number of studies that show how fats in coconut oil can actually decrease risk factors for heart attack and stroke. It emphasized the oil’s medium chain triglycerides or MCTs, shown in research to actually prevent obesity and arteriosclerosis, two of the primary risk factors for cardiovascular illness.
MCTs in coconut oil have been tied to weight loss through accelerating one’s metabolism and reducing appetite. Further, they have exhibited potential in preventing the hardening of arteries, along with fatty deposits that up the risk for stroke and heart attack.
The studies also clarified that not all LDL cholesterol causes damage. New research, HuffPost continued, demonstrates how LDL comes in two vastly different varieties.
Small, dense LDL particles have been linked to damage, while reduced levels of large, fluffy LDL particles have been actually associated with increased heart disease risk.
The AHA report, too, may have also overlooked coconut oil’s anti-virus, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
Harvard School of Public Health’s Frank Sacks, lead author of the AHA advisory, was firm in his belief that the public may simply be too quick to believe in diet trends such as the one that has buoyed coconut oil as a health food.
“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," he said.
On the flip side, could the AHA have relied on studies that already have outdated, inaccurate conclusions and gotten it all wrong about coconut oil?