Coconut Oil – (Source: Dr. Pam Popper, The Wellness Forum)
By January 2006, food companies were required to clearly state on their labels the amount of trans fat in packaged foods. Knowing that consumers would begin avoiding the consumption of foods containing trans-fat, many of them have replaced trans-fat with palm oil, coconut oil and other tropical oils. This does not represent an improvement in these packaged foods and they should still be avoided.
Tropical oils are saturated fats… the type that raises cholesterol levels, clogs arteries and increases the risk of many degenerative diseases, including heart disease. Coconut oil is 100% pure fat, 92% of which is saturated (which means that it is more saturated than butter or lard). Coconut oil will elevate cholesterol levels more than any other fat because it is so saturated.
Coconut oil has been recommended by many in the health industry as being healthy, but this recommendation is based on faulty science. Proponents state that coconut oil is made up of medium chain fatty acids, which are metabolized differently than long-chain fatty acids. Like much faulty health advice, there is some truth to the statement ; but only a small portion of coconut oil is made from medium chain fatty acids, while the majority of the fatty acids in coconut oil are long-chain fatty acids, such as lauric, myristic and palmitic acids. These long-chain fatty acids have a deleterious effect on health.
Advocates continue to refer to Polynesians who consume a diet containing lots of tropical oils, since they have lower rates of heart disease than Americans. As is often the case, this information is also taken out of context. When evaluating the dietary and lifestyle patterns of populations and their effects on health outcomes, it is important to evaluate the totality of the diet and lifestyle, rather than one component, to get an accurate picture of cause and effect. Polynesians do have lower rates of LDL cholesterol levels than Americans. However, they consume a diet very high in fiber, they consume more Omega-3 fats than the average American, and their diet contains very little sodium. Additionally, almost none of them smoke and they are generally quite physically active. It’s likely that the combination of these factors is responsible for their health outcomes, not simply the consumption of coconut oil.
Like so much of the health information distributed today, health benefits from coconut oil are a myth. Oils are not health foods, since they are concentrated fat and calories, and coconut oil is one of the worst. In my opinion, it is dangerous for an individual already consuming a less than optimal diet with too much fat to add coconut oil to the diet.