“Coconut Oil is pure poison” headlines to TERRIFY!
Anyone interested in health and wellbeing will have read this headline a few weeks ago and laughed I am sure. Why do the British love a nutritional controversy? Have we become a nation of Jeremy Kyle? The newspapers like The Times, The Independent and Business Insider ran with the articles that advised us that a Harvard Professor had announced coconut oil as a poison.
The headline screamer is what most people pick up because you and I are busy. So that message will have stuck into your subconscious, caused some concern and maybe even changed a habit or two.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, an avid supporter of saturated fats and former cardiologist at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, said her comments were bringing the prestigious Harvard University into ‘disrepute’. Dr Malhotra has called on her to apologise for her ‘entirely false’ claim and to retract it.
Saturated fat: the research
The original discussion by Karin Michel’s didn’t denounce coconut oil, she had a passionate discussion in German about saturated fat, which of course coconut oil is full off. I know this sounds like a nuance but the headline screamed about coconut oil so it was hitting a popular public nerve so it is best to be clear.
Isolating the conversation about saturated fat being the baddie is also a little more in-depth.
Research has not been done to link saturated fat and the corresponding increase of the particularly bad cholesterol LDL. Whilst research has proved that saturated fat increases your overall cholesterol, it hasn’t gone specifically down the line of which cholesterol – HDL, LDL or Triglycerides. It is the small LDL particles that cause heart issues.
In addition, high cholesterol does not mean heart disease, for instance, the Pacific islands obtain 63% of their diet from coconut oil their total cholesterol is high but so is their good HDL cholesterol) .
Interesting the only study in 2016 that found LDL increased with cholesterol but carbs were also present, the results were, therefore, not conclusive. Scientists don’t know if it is the carbs that have increased LDL or saturated fat. Nonetheless, the 2016 study concluded that sugar was a far worse indicator of health.
Carbs (sugar) in your diet keeps up the underlying inflammation in your body. It is the inflammation that causes the problem for cardiovascular disease – that put simply pokes holes into the veins for the LDL to fill up. LDL does rise with saturated fat but only if the saturated fat is presented with carbs. So doughnuts and millionaire shortbread where the sugar and fat are together is the huge risk for raised LDL – bad cholesterol.
Saturated fat does raise LDL and yet it also raises HDL, sugar, however, lowers your good cholesterol HDL.
A good predictor of heart attacks is:
- LDL high,
- HDL low
Benefits of Coconut oil
Coconut oil is a medium chain saturated fat
Long chain saturated fats like grain oil – canola/corn/soy/sunflower are very long chain saturated oil while coconut oil is medium chain saturated oil. Research by another Harvard professor explains that
“MCTs are more rapidly absorbed by the body and more quickly metabolized (burned) as fuel. The result of this accelerated metabolic conversion is that instead of being stored as fat, the calories contained in MCTs are very efficiently converted into fuel for immediate use by organs and muscles.” Dr. Vigen K. Babayan of the Nutrition Laboratory, Harvard University
MCT’s help with digestion and metabolism. Unlike most other fats they are not stored in the liver but instead are used as a direct source of energy.
The saturated fats in coconut oil, known as medium chain acids (MCT’s) supports many of your important body functions, for instance:
- essential fuel for your brain,
- aid with metabolism,
- energy supply,
- mineral absorption,
- your immune system,
- your hormones,
- plus it contains powerful antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic properties.
Coconut oil Antibacterial effect
Coconut oil contains caprylic acid, which is a useful anti-microbial compound, and it is especially useful in the treatment of infections.
Antibacterial – They help eliminate harmful bacteria that can lead to infections such as gum disease, urinary tract infections, throat infections and skin infections.
Antifungal – The three fatty acids in coconut oil, lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid help kill fungus and eliminate yeast infections including candida and ringworm.
Antiparasitic – Kills lice, worms and other parasites and helps detoxify any harmful substances they leave behind.
Antiviral – Lauric acid is converted by our body into monolaurin, an anti-viral agent which boosts immunity and helps fight off viruses. About 50% of MCT’s consists of Lauric acid. The largest source of Lauric acid in nature comes from coconuts and the second largest is found in breast milk – the first and essential source of nutrition for babies!
Coconut oil Nutrient absorption
The reason why coconut oil and nutrient absorption work particularly well together is thanks again to the MCT’s (medium chain fatty acids). Coconut oil helps with nutrient absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K.
- Fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K need fat in order to be absorbed by the body.
- Water-soluble nutrients – such as vitamin C and vitamin B – don’t need fat to be absorbed.
Coconut Oil for cooking – heat stable fat
Another reason why coconut oil is healthy is that it is the most heat-stable fat in the world
What is the alternative: Vegetable oils?
Vegetable oils are industrial oils made from seeds such as sunflower, rapeseed (canola), corn and soybean. They are very unstable, heavily processed fats that are already oxidized when you buy them. Unlike natural fats such as coconut oil and olive oil that is extracted by pressing them, these oils are produced differently. They contain a lot of chemicals, pesticides and additives and many of them are genetically modified (GMO) oils.
Vegetable oils have been promoted as a ”heart-healthy” alternative in the campaign against saturated fat. The problem is that they are not healthy at all and even less so when you cook with them.
The worst thing is what happens with them when they are heated; they oxidize very easily.
Oxidation in different types of fats
1. Oils high in polyunsaturated fats such as canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, grapeseed and peanut oil are very sensitive to heat. They oxidize easily and should not be eaten at all, but should especially not be used to cook with.
2. Oils high in monounsaturated fats such as avocado oil and olive oil are more stable than polyunsaturated fats, but they are not recommended for cooking.
Extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil are exceptions due to their high content of antioxidants which protect against oxidation. They are safe for brief low-temperature cooking.
3. Fats high in saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter and ghee are the most heat-resistant fats, which makes them the healthiest option for cooking.
West vs rest of the world
I am not comfortable with conspiracy theories or that the big business is out to make a buck and they are not concerned about your health.
However, I have done considerable research into low-fat products and believe them to be unhealthy and the question is Coconut oil raises is a similar ethical question that is worth bearing in mind.
Coconut oil has been used throughout history in countries in Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean where it has always been considered a healthy product. These countries have been using Coconut for food, skin & hair and even for medical purpose for decades.
In recent years coconut oil’s popularity has spread to the rest of the world and coconut does not grow in western countries. But its science and research-backed popularity in the west was rapidly becoming a huge threat to Olive Oil, Canola, Sunflower & all other vegetable oils from the west and under the control of multinational corporations.
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