The Shocking Truths About Coconut Oil, Saturated Fats and Low-Fat Diets
The Internet was taken by storm a week ago when a new study by the American Heart Association announced that coconut oil might be bad for you. The author of the study said he had no idea why people ever thought coconut oil was healthy, condemning the high amount of saturated fat in the product. The mainstream media broadcasted the news as is and the wellness community stood in defence of their favourite oil.
This is not the first time we witness similar controversies. So, let’s look deeper at this debate!
If you have read one or more articles about coconut oil, you know that it has been linked to a number of health benefits related to skin, weight loss and even vaginal health.
Between the new AHA study and the many others highlighting the benefits of coconut oil, it is really hard to make one’s own conclusion.
So What is The Full Story?
1- Yes, coconut oil contains higher amount of saturated fat. But…
If we look deeper than just a headline, we realize that the “studies the American Heart Association sites in the recent study, do not link eating coconut oil to heart disease, they link it to increasing cholesterol numbers.” And according to Dr. Will Cole, a functional medicine practitioner, “studies have found that there might be no association between high total cholesterol and heart attack and stroke risk.”
2- Eating fat doesn’t make you fat
If it is the fat content you are worried about, then you have it all wrong. Dr Mark Hyman is a big fan of eating fat as a way to reach optimal wellbeing, and coconut oil is one of his favourites.
What makes coconut oil so valuable is that it contains MCT oil (medium-chain triglyceride oil). Your cells burn these MCTs for energy while storing very little of them as fat, boosting metabolism and supporting your immune system in the bargain.
3- Low fat diets have not stopped or slowed down the epidemic of obesity and diabetes
Quite the opposite, it has probably accelerated it.
After years and so many national campaigns to encourage people to go on low-fat diets to decrease their weight and reduce the occurrence of diabetes, governments are finally catching up to the misleading studies and the resulting misconceptions.
In 2016, the British National Obesity Forum (NOF) and Public Health Collaboration (PHC) released a report based on the analysis of 43 studies that warns that the policy to encourage people to eat a low-fat diet is having a disastrous impact on public health. Key findings of the report state that: high-fat diets are superior for weight-loss, calorie counting doesn’t work, exercise alone cannot combat obesity, saturated fat does not cause heart disease and meal frequency influences weight.
Finally, the report asks for a complete review of dietary guidelines because these have caused increased consumption of net carbs and junk foods and notes that eating healthy fat does not make you fat.
So, What is The Bottom Line?
Every expert confirms that we can still consider coconut oil as a health food because it is rich in MCTs, and because of a general misunderstanding of fats and specifically saturated fats.
“The problem with saturated fats like coconut oil occurs when people eat them with refined grains (which turn into sugar) such as breads and pasta or sugary foods,” explains Dr. Cole. “This ‘mixed meal’ combination amplifies the inflammatory effects of sugar.”
We can’t look at one ingredient and pretend we hold the answer to its impact on our health. It fits within a complete picture of a lifestyle.
One last thing, quantity matters. Even if it is considered healthy, the quantity of coconut oil consumed makes a difference, especially that each body is different. Experts suggest 1 or 2 tablespoons per day but we suggest you start there and adjust according to how your body reacts. It is about what works for you!