Controversy over Coconut Oil

Cardiac health is one of the most prominent spheres of investigative medicine worldwide. Firmly linked with obesity, and because it has an overall bad impact on our general wellbeing, there are a number of studies out there which continue to seek answers as to how we can improve our heart health. Recently, the American Heart Association published their latest findings. But have they got it right?

The AHA is, deservedly, a much respected body. And whilst the benefits that come from having a large association devoted to the health of the most important organ in the body are undeniable, what happens when they get it wrong? It’s certainly is not a question America has asked in the last few years. Until now, when the AHA have suddenly decided that coconut oil should be vilified.

The new findings published by the AHA in their Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease report, state clearly that coconut oil is something that has an adverse effect on the heart. It outright says that, and lays down seemingly plausible reasons for that. The report also ties these new findings very tightly to saturated fats – which we have all come to think of as the devil’s work – so it’s no surprise that piggy-backing on saturated fats has given the ‘coconut oil is bad for you’ suggestion more weight. However, on closer examination, the truth of this matter might be a bit different.

Over-consumption of saturated fats is bad for you – a well-known fact. But we also need these saturated fats from things like coconut oil in our diet for hormone production and regulation.

To support their report and findings, the AHA have talked about coconut oil and the increase it causes in the ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL. To quote directly: “…there are no known, offsetting, favorable effects…” (of coconut oil). What they don’t mention, however, is that coconut oil also increases the good type of cholesterol, HDL. Furthermore, this oil has also been proven to help weight loss and lower blood pressure – two of the key factors in maintaining a healthy heart.

One of the accepted top risk factors for poor cardiac health has appeared to be combining carbs and saturated fats. Consumption of carbohydrates causes insulin to be produced by the body. Over-consumption of carbs naturally leads to more insulin being made by the body, which then leads to more fat stored and therefore the heart is potentially vulnerable to a build-up of visceral fat.

As some medical experts say, the AHA doesn’t have an unblemished record. Some previous recommendations have turned out less than accurate; take the ‘all butter is bad for you, stick to low fat margarine’ line, for example. Whereas now we know that organic butter is actually better for you than margarine. So, historically, their statements aren’t always correct, and this might also be the case with their latest findings.

As far as most nutritionists and medical scientists are concerned, currently we lack scientific evidence to claim that coconut oil is definitely detrimental even in small amounts. So the AHA’s categorical assertion that coconut oil is nothing but bad for you seems to be an oversimplification of the facts.