- What is Coconut Oil
- Coconut Oil Nutrition Content
- How Coconut Oil got a reputation for being healthy in the first place
- The Science Behind Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs)
- How Coconut Oil Is Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Goals
- Is Saturated Fat Bad for you ?
- Is Coconut oil bad ?
- Is Coconut Oil Good for Your Heart ?
- Coconut oil and Saturated Fats
- There’s a lot of conflicting information about saturated fats. Should I eat them or not ?
- Can coconut oil cure dementia or Alzheimer’s disease ?
What is Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is being heavily promoted as a healthy oil, with benefits that include support of heart health and weight loss. Coconut oil, has been endorsed by celebrities and chefs for use in cooking and baking, with fashion models reportedly eating it in an attempt to speed up their metabolic rate. According to leading market research providers Mintel, coconut oil in food and beverages accounted for 26% of food and drink new product launches in 2012, and one in ten 16–24 year-olds currently buys coconut oil. Whole Foods reportedly sold six tonnes of coconut oil across the UK in the month of February 2015. And lately it’s hard to find celebrities or fitness gurus that don’t rave about using coconut oil. You can’t browse social media or the grocery store shelves, these days without running across coconut oil. The sweet-smelling tropical staple is rumored to slow aging, help your heart and thyroid, protect against illnesses like Alzheimer’s, arthritis and diabetes, and even help you lose weight. But the bizarre thing about the buzz around coconut oil is that there’s very little, if any scientific evidence to back up most of its supposed benefits for human health.
Coconut oil, extracted from the meat of what can loosely be called a seed, a fruit or a nut, is mostly saturated fat, about 82 percent 2). Coconut oil also has 6% monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) and 1.7% polyunsaturated fat (linoleic acid). One tablespoon adds up to more than 11 grams of saturated fats, according to the federal National Nutrient Database 3). That’s nearly the total daily limit of 13 grams recommended by the American Heart Association. Replacing saturated fat with healthier fat in the diet lowers cardiovascular disease risk as much as cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, according to an American Heart Association 2017 Presidential Advisory 4). When you look at biomarkers of cardiovascular disease such as serum lipid profiles, studies 5) show that coconut oil consistently raises cholesterol higher than monounsaturated (Oleic acid) and polyunsaturated oils (linoleic acid).
A new science advisory from the American Heart Association recommended against ingesting coconut oil 6). According to the advisory, coconut oil is 85 percent (approx.) saturated fat (see table 1 below) and studies show it raises LDL “bad” cholesterol as much as butter, beef fat or palm oil. In fact coconut oil is about 85% saturated fat, which is a higher percentage than butter (about 64% saturated fat), beef fat (40%), or even pork lard (also 40%). Too much saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy because it raises “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. So it would seem that coconut oil would be bad news for your heart. The most recent American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology advisory, after analyzing of more than 100 published research studies dating as far back as the 1950s, reaffirmed that saturated fats raise LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Tropical vegetable oils such as coconut oil contain high levels of saturated fats, and the authors reported that coconut oil raised LDL cholesterol in seven controlled trials. The paper pointed out there are great benefits to replacing saturated fats – such as coconut oil, butter, beef fat, lard, ghee or palm oil – with healthier, polyunsaturated fats. Some studies have even suggested that this could help lower cardiovascular disease risk as much as cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, the authors noted.
The MCT oil used in the MCT Oil Consumption as Part of a Weight Loss Diet study 7) was a special 100 percent medium-chain coconut oil. Most coconut oils typically have 13 percent to 14 percent of this medium-chain triglyceride, the study author said. So, people would have to eat large quantities to replicate the results. “No one eats 150 grams (10 tablespoons) of coconut oil in a day,” said the study author. Nor should they.
A lot of the benefits of coconut oil are attributed to coconut oil’s concentration of MCTs (capric and caprylic acid). However, only 13 to 15% of coconut oil is medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s). So, you would need to take a lot of coconut oil to match the amount used in studies on MCT’s.
The thought process behind MCT’s is that they are rapidly broken, go straight to the liver and may play a role in weight loss. They are also considered to not adversely affect blood cholesterol levels. However, a recent study 8) looking at MCT in adolescents showed no increase in thermogenesis, or a decrease in appetite or satiety. In another study 9) comparing virgin coconut oil to extra virgin olive oil, there was also no difference in metabolism or fat oxidation.
The cardiovascular health benefits of coconut oil are cited from the studies looking at indigenous populations from India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Polynesia and Melanesia. However, most of these populations rely on coconuts and not coconut oil. The remainder of their diet tends to be higher in whole foods and lower in sugar and processed foods. It should be noted that coconuts are a high fiber food. One cup of coconut flesh has 7 grams of fiber. Eating coconuts are not linked to cardiovascular disease.
In the case of the Pukapukans and Tokelauans, their overall diet is very low in sugar and rich in high fiber foods. It consists mainly of coconuts, breadfruit, and fish. There is little, if any, consumption of coconut oil 10).
The Kitava studies examined the Melanesian people in Papua New Guinea. Their overall fat intake is only 21%. In addition, their diet is mostly whole coconuts, tubers, fish, and fruit. Their intake of oils, margarine, and sugar is very little. In other words, mostly whole-food, plant-based diet.
When looking at Samoans, their traditional diet also consists of coconuts along with seafood, low intake of processed foods. Of course, all that has changed now with the widely available processed food, refined sugars and red meat (beef, spam) 11).
The bottom line is that coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, does not increase thermogenesis or weight loss. Based on all the current research we have so far, regular use of coconut oil should not be advised. As always, a whole foods diet consisting of mainly plants should be the foundation of a healthy eating pattern.
Coconut Oil Nutrition Content
Table 1. Coconut Oil Nutrition Content
Value per 100 g
|Total lipid (fat)||g||14.00||100.00|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||g||0.00||0.00|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||g||11.999||85.710|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated||g||1.000||7.140|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated||g||0.000||0.000|
|Fatty acids, total trans||g||0.000||0.000|
What is Cholesterol ?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs it to build cells. But too much cholesterol can be a problem 13).
Cholesterol comes from two sources. Your body (specifically your liver) makes all the cholesterol you need. The rest you get from foods. For example, meat, poultry, ghee, butter, pork lard, beef tallow and full-fat dairy products contain cholesterol (called dietary cholesterol). More importantly, these foods are high in saturated and trans fat. That’s a problem because these fats cause your liver to make more cholesterol than it otherwise would. For some people, this added production means they go from a normal cholesterol level to one that’s unhealthy.
Some tropical oils, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also can trigger your liver to make more cholesterol. These oils are often found in baked goods.
There are actually two types of cholesterol: “bad” and “good.” LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind. HDL is the “good” kind. Too much of the bad kind (LDL cholesterol) — or not enough of the good kind (HDL cholesterol) — increases the chances that cholesterol will start to slowly build up in the inner walls of arteries that feed the heart and brain. We talk more about these two kinds of cholesterol here: What is Cholesterol and Is there good and bad cholesterol ?
High LDL “bad” cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. High LDL “bad” cholesterol contributes to fatty buildups in arteries (atherosclerosis). Plaque buildups narrow arteries and raise the risk for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease can narrowed arteries in the legs. If the blocked artery supplies the heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke occurs. If an artery supplying oxygen to the extremities (often the legs) is blocked, gangrene can result. Gangrene is tissue death. If you have other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes, this risk increases even more. The more risk factors you have and the more severe they are, the more your overall risk rises.
Keeping your cholesterol levels healthy is a great way to keep your heart healthy – and lower your chances of getting heart disease or having a stroke.
Why cholesterol matters
Cholesterol circulates in the blood, and as blood cholesterol levels rise, so does the risk to your health. That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol tested so you can know your levels.
Together with other substances, LDL “bad” cholesterol can form a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, a heart attack or stroke can result.
A diet high in saturated (e.g. ghee, butter, beef tallow, pork lard) and trans fat is unhealthy because it tends to raise LDL “bad” cholesterol.
High LDL “bad” cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. If you have other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes, this risk increases even more. The more risk factors you have and the more severe they are, the more your overall risk rises.
A low LDL cholesterol level is considered good for your heart health.
A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee recommendations 14) are:
- to balance caloric intake and physical activity to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight;
- consume a diet rich in vegetables and fruits;
- choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods;
- consume fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week;
- limit intake of saturated fat to <7% of energy, trans fat to <1% of energy, and cholesterol to <300 mg/day by choosing lean meats and vegetable alternatives, fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1% fat) dairy products and minimize intake of partially hydrogenated fats;
- minimize intake of beverages and foods with added sugars; choose and prepare foods with little or no salt.
How Coconut Oil got a reputation for being healthy in the first place
The social media hype with coconut oil seems to come from claims that coconut oil and its many derivations may help boost weight loss, improve metabolism and lower cholesterol. And that ingredient is called medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, and a study reported that they are processed by the body differently than other dietary fats 15), 16).
The social media hype seemed to have selectively extrapolated the outcome from a study by Marie-Pierre St-Onge and Aubrey Bosarge titled “Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil” 17). In that study, 49 overweight men and women, aged 19–50 years, consumed either 18–24 g/d of medium-chain triacylglycerols (MCT) oil or olive oil as part of a weight-loss program for 16 wk. Subjects received weekly group weight-loss counseling. Body weight and waist circumference were measured weekly. Adipose tissue distribution was assessed at baseline and at the endpoint by use of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and computed tomography.
Results: Thirty-one subjects completed the study (body mass index: 29.8 0.4, in kg/m2). Medium-chain triacylglycerols (MCT) oil consumption resulted in lower endpoint body weight than did olive oil (1.67 0.67 kg). There was a trend toward greater loss of fat mass (P 0.071) and trunk fat mass (P 0.10) with MCT consumption than with olive oil. Endpoint trunk fat mass, total fat mass, and intraabdominal adipose tissue were all lower with MCT consumption than with olive oil consumption (all unadjusted P values 0.05).
Conclusions: Consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol (MCT) oil as part of a weight-loss plan improves weight loss compared with olive oil and can thus be successfully included in a weight-loss diet. Small changes in the quality of fat intake can therefore be useful to enhance weight loss.
Dr. St-Onge’s study noted that coconut oil has a higher proportion of these than most other fats or oils.
However, Dr. St-Onge pointed out that the oil she used in her study was a special 100 percent medium-chain coconut oil. Most coconut oils typically have 13 percent to 14 percent of this medium-chain triglyceride, she said. So, people would have to eat large quantities to replicate the results. “No one eats 150 grams (10 tablespoons) of coconut oil in a day,” said St-Onge. 18).
Moreover. the Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory of the American Heart Association recently found that coconut oil not only increases LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), but also 82 percent of its composition is saturated fats. That’s 19 percent more saturated fats than butter and 32 percent more than pork lard 19).
The Science Behind Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs)
Based on their structure, saturated fats can be sub-classified into short chain, medium chain, and long chain fats whereas mono- and polyunsaturated fats are all long chain fats.
Saturated Fats Sub-Classifications 20)
- Short chain fatty acids are considered to have 6 or fewer carbon atoms,
- Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) have 8–10 carbons, and
- Long chain fatty acids (LCFA) generally have 12 or more carbon chains. Recently updated meta-analysis of clinical trials found that lauric acid (12:0), myristic acid (14:0), and palmitic acid (16:0) significantly raised levels of total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol when mixed carbohydrates in diet were replaced by these fatty acids 21), 22).
These fatty acids are all classified as Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs):
- Caproic acid, also called hexaonic acid (C6-six carbons)
- Caprylic Acid, also called Octanoic acid (C8-8 carbons)
- Capric Acid, also called Dacanoic acid (C10-10 carbons)
- Lauric Acid, also called Dodecanoic acid (C12- 12 carbons)
Medium Chain Fatty Acids oil can be a mixture of one or more of these types of medium chain fatty acids and is typically extracted from coconut or palm oil, which are both rich natural sources. The thought process behind MCT’s is that they are rapidly broken, go straight to the liver and may play a role in weight loss. They are also considered to not adversely affect blood cholesterol levels.
Few clinical studies have examined the impact of medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) on cardiovascular disease risk factors 23), 24), 25), 26), 27).
Some of those studies have found that medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) consumption increased total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL bad Cholesterol) to the same extent as palm oil 28) and led to higher levels of triglycerides than palm oil and sunflower oil 29), an other diet rich in long chain fatty acids (LCFA) 30), 31), or soybean oil 32). Reductions in HDL (good) Cholesterol 33) and absence of effects on Total Cholesterol, LDL (bad) Cholesterol, and HDL (good) Cholesterol have also been noted with medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) consumption 34).
Previous studies with medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil showed reductions in Total Cholesterol and LDL (bad) Cholesterol and no change in HDL (good) Cholesterol or Triglycerides 35), 36) but in those studies the MCT oil was fed in combination with plant sterols, which are known to reduce total cholesterol and LDL” bad” Cholesterol 37), 38) and safflower oil, an oil rich in n-3 polyunsaturated fats. Hu et al. 39), however, have found that MCT oil did not increase the risk of coronary heart disease in the Nurses’ Health Study whereas consumption of long chain saturated fats did. Therefore, whether MCT oil truly has a negative impact on cardiovascular risk remains to be firmly established. This is particularly important since MCT oil has been taunted as a potential weight-lowering agent 40), 41), 42), 43), 44).
Although MCT oil plus weight loss program study 45) cannot distinguish which side of the energy balance equation played a bigger role in weight loss (enhanced suppression of food intake or enhanced thermic effect of food), the data complement the body of literature concluding that MCT oil can be successfully used in a weight-management program to enhance weight loss. This study 46) also shows that fats have a place in a weight-loss diet and that choosing MCT oil over an LCT oil may provide an additional boost for weight loss. However, a recent study 47) looking at MCT oil in adolescents showed no increase in thermogenesis, or a decrease in appetite or satiety. More research is needed into the use of MCT oil as a tool in weight management in overweight and obesity. Moreover, when Flatt et al. 48) compared diets rich in MCT, LCT and low in fat, they concluded that a low fat diet was more effective when aiming for weight loss.
How Coconut Oil Is Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Goals
Coconut oil, extracted from the meat of what can loosely be called a seed, a fruit or a nut, is mostly saturated fat, about 82 percent. One tablespoon adds up to more than 11 grams of saturated fats, according to the federal National Nutrient Database. That’s nearly the total daily limit of 13 grams recommended by the American Heart Association.
Coconut oil is a colorless to brown-yellow edible oil derived from mature coconuts. Standard coconut oil is normally produced by firstly drying the kernel (to produce something known as copra) and secondly refining, bleaching and deodorising the extracted oil. So-called virgin coconut oil is instead made via a ‘wet process’, either being extracted from coconut milk or from fresh kernel which is not subjected to drying or chemical refining 49). Coconut oil comprises 99.9% fatty acids; of these, 91.9% are saturated fatty acids, 6.4% are monounsaturated fatty acid acids (MUFA) and 1.5% are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and coconut oil contains no dietary cholesterol 50).
Figure 1. Comparison of the fatty acid composition of selected edible oils and fats
Note : Comparison of the fatty acid composition of selected edible oils and fats. SFA, saturated fatty acid; MUFA, monounsaturated fatty acid; PUFA, polyunsaturated fatty acid. [Source: McCance and Widdowson’s Composition of Foods 51)].
Previous analysis of women in the Nurses’ Health Study reported that intake of major saturated fatty acids (including 12:0, 14:0, 16:0, and 18:0) were associated with an elevated risk of coronary heart disease, whereas the sum of butyric acid (4:0), caproic acid (6:0), caprylic acid (8:0), and capric acid (10:0) was not 52).
The individual fatty acid composition of coconut oil can be seen in Figure 1 above. The principal fatty acids are lauric (C12:0), myristic (C14:0) and palmitic (C16:0) acids. Virgin coconut oil has been found to contain up to seven times higher concentrations of polyphenols than standard coconut oil, with total polyphenol contents of up to 80 mg gallic acid equivalents/100 g oil reported in virgin coconut oil (a figure comparable to extra virgin olive oil), although concentrations differ depending on coconut variety 53), 54), 55). The lower levels in standard coconut oil are likely to be due to minor components being destroyed during the manufacturing process and also because polyphenols are polar compounds and therefore have a higher affinity for liquid coconut milk and fresh copra as opposed to dried copra 56). Despite the difference in concentrations, the mixture of phenolics present (including ferulic, p-coumaric, caffeic, gallic and syringic acids and catechin) 57), 58) it is thought to be largely the same in standard and virgin coconut oils 59). Phenolic composition has been characterised only in a small number of publications and further verification is needed, particularly in terms of quantities. Of the compounds identified so far, all are found in a variety of other plant foods. For example, ferulic acid is present in much higher quantities in wholegrain bread flour (72 mg/100 g vs. 0.3 mg/100 g reported in virgin coconut oil), catechin is present in much higher quantities in cocoa (108 mg/100 g vs. 0.3 mg/100 g reported in virgin coconut oil) and p-coumaric acid is higher in dried dates (5.8 mg/100 g vs. 0.2 mg/100 g reported in virgin coconut oil) 60).
Various biological effects of coconut oil, such as blood pressure and cholesterol lowering, reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) oxidation and potential as an Alzheimer’s treatment, as have been reported in animal and in vitro studies, have been attributed to the phenolic content 61), 62), 63). Coconut oil also contains small amounts of vitamin E (0.66 mg/100g) and vitamin K (1 μg/100 g) 64).
Proponents say that it contains a healthy type of saturated fatty acid (lauric acid) that your body quickly burns for energy. The oil extracted from fresh coconut contains a relatively large amount of medium-chain fatty acids, which don’t appear to be stored in adipose tissue as readily as do long-chain fatty acids. This in part is why some people started looking at coconut oil as a weight-loss aid.
However, coconut oil is still high in calories and saturated fat (about 64% saturated fat) 65). Coconut oil has more saturated fat than lard does. Short-term studies have suggested medium-chain fatty acids, such as lauric acid, do not raise serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) ‘bad’ cholesterol as much as do long-chain fatty acids. However, there are few long-term studies looking at the relationship between coconut oil and heart health. In addition, 1 tablespoon contains 13.6 grams of fat and 117 calories. About 84% of its calories come from saturated fat. To compare, 14% of olive oil’s calories are from saturated fat and 63% of butter’s are.
Saturated fat is divided into various types, based on the number of carbon atoms in the molecule, and about half of the saturated fat in coconut oil is the 12-carbon variety, called lauric acid. That is a higher percentage than in most other oils, and is probably responsible for the unusual HDL effects of coconut oil. But plant-based oils are more than just fats. They contain many antioxidants and other substances, so their overall effects on health can’t be predicted just by the changes in LDL and HDL 66).
In another study on the effects of coconut oil consumption on energy metabolism, cardiometabolic risk markers, and appetitive responses in women with excess body fat 67). Fifteen adult women with excess body fat (BMI 37.43 ± 0.83%) participated in this randomized, crossover, controlled study. Two isocaloric mixed breakfasts containing 25 mL of virgin coconut oil (VCO) is a medium-chain fatty acid source or control (extra-virgin olive oil-C) were evaluated. Resting energy expenditure, fat oxidation rate, diet induced thermogenesis and appetitive subjective responses were assessed at fasting and postprandial periods (up to 240 min). Cardiometabolic risk markers were assessed at fasting and up to 180 min postprandially. The conclusion was virgin coconut oil (VCO) is a medium-chain fatty acid consumption did not acutely change energy metabolism and cardiometabolic risk markers when added to a mixed breakfast but promoted less appetitive responses.
A new study testing the effects of a test oil enriched in medium chain triglycerides (MCT) from coconut oil, on energy expenditure, satiety, and metabolic markers in overweight and obese adolescents. The randomized, double blind, crossover study in which 15 children, age 13-18 years, with a body mass index >85th percentile for age and sex, were enrolled. Two test meals were administered which contained 20 g of fat from either corn oil or an MCT-enriched baking fat (providing approximately 4.7 g of fatty acids with chain lengths ≤12C). A fasting blood sample was taken before breakfast and the thermic effect of food was assessed using indirect calorimetry for 6 h. During the test, satiety was measured using visual analog scales and additional blood samples were obtained from an intravenous catheter at times 30, 45, 60, 120, and 180 min post-meal for measurement of hormones and metabolites. The results do not suggest that this MCT-rich test oil enhances thermogenesis and satiety in children 68).
Is Saturated Fat Bad for you ?
Yes. The main sources of saturated fat to be decreased are dairy fat (butter), lard (pork), beef tallow, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil. A diet rich in saturated fats can drive up total cholesterol, and tip the balance toward more harmful LDL cholesterol, which prompts blockages to form in arteries in the heart and elsewhere in the body. For that reason, most nutrition experts recommend limiting saturated fat to under 10% of calories a day.
Like butter and lard, coconut oil is solid at room temperature with a long shelf life and the ability to withstand high cooking temperatures.
The few small studies that have looked at coconut oil for weight loss suggest that coconut oil may help reduce waist size, but it doesn’t lead to significant weight loss or improved body mass index (BMI). However due to the small sample and the poorly designed study (non randomised and not double blind), the outcome of that study is only observational at this point. More research is needed to show cause and effect and more research is needed to better understand this relationship.
Consuming too much will give you extra calories — and that can signal to your body that it’s time to store more fat. Even if the stored fat doesn’t come directly from the coconut oil, high doses of coconut oil could still indirectly contribute to the very problem you are trying to address.
Observational evidence suggests that consumption of coconut flesh or squeezed coconut in the context of traditional dietary patterns does not lead to adverse cardiovascular outcomes.
A 2015 Harvard study found that replacing calories from saturated fat in your diet with calories from refined carbs like white bread and soda won’t lower heart disease risk. But swapping saturated fats like coconut oil and butter with unsaturated options — like those in nuts, seeds, and liquid vegetable oil — will.
Although eating coconut oil in moderation isn’t going to result in great harm to your health, it’s not likely to help you lose weight either. For successful, long-term weight loss, stick to the basics — an overall healthy-eating plan and exercise.
Is Coconut oil bad ?
Consuming high amounts of saturated fats linked to increased heart disease risk ! 69), 70), 71), 72)
In a new study appearing online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Frank Hu and colleagues found that people who replace saturated fat (primarily found in meats and dairy foods) with refined carbohydrates do not lower their risk of heart disease, whereas those who replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats or whole grains lower their heart disease risk 73).
Although fat is an important part of a healthy diet, it’s even more important to focus on eating beneficial “good” fats and avoiding harmful “bad” fats. Choose foods with “good” unsaturated fats, limit foods high in saturated fat, and avoid “bad” trans fat.
- “Good” unsaturated fats — Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — lower disease risk. Foods high in good fats include vegetable oils (such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, safflower, soybean oil, walnut oil and corn oil), nuts (peanuts,almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios and pecans), seeds, avocado and fish.
- “Bad” fats — trans fats — increase disease risk, even when eaten in small quantities. Foods containing trans fats are primarily in processed foods made with trans fat from partially hydrogenated oil. Fortunately, trans fats have been eliminated from many of these foods.
- “Bad” Saturated fats, while not as harmful as trans fats, by comparison with unsaturated fats negatively impact health and are best consumed in moderation. Foods containing large amounts of saturated fat include red meat, butter, ghee, coconut oil, palm oil, cheese and ice cream.
When you cut back on foods like red meat and butter, replace them with oily fish, beans, nuts, and healthy oils instead of refined carbohydrates.
Most foods have a combination of different fats. You are better off choosing foods higher in healthier fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats tend to be liquid at room temperature.
The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans 74) Key Recommendations for healthy eating pattern limits:
- Saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
- To further reduce your heart disease risk, limit saturated fats to less than 7% of your total daily calories.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
- Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium (salt).
- If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.
You can cut how much saturated fat you eat by substituting healthier foods for less healthy options. Replace foods high in saturated fats with foods that have polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Here is how to get started:
- Replace red meats with skinless chicken or fish a few days a week.
- Use canola or olive oil instead of butter, ghee and other solid fats.
- Replace whole-fat diary with low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods with low or no saturated fat.
Is Coconut Oil Good for Your Heart ?
Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death, accounting for 17.3 million deaths per year, comprising 31.5% of total global deaths in 2013. Nearly 808 000 people in the United States died of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases in 2014, translating to about 1 of every 3 deaths 75). Preventive treatment that reduces cardiovascular disease by even a small percentage can substantially reduce, nationally and globally, the number of people who develop cardiovascular disease and the costs of caring for them. According to the American Heart Association: “eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.” From a chemical standpoint, saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. And If you want to lower your risk of heart disease, coconut oil is not a good choice 76). Too much saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy because it raises “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. But what’s interesting about coconut oil is that it also gives “good” HDL cholesterol a boost. Fat in the diet, whether it’s saturated or unsaturated, tends to nudge HDL levels up, but coconut oil seems to be especially potent at doing so.
But there’s no evidence that consuming coconut oil can lower the risk of heart disease, according to an article in the April 2016 Nutrition Reviews. The study, titled “Coconut Oil Consumption and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Humans,” reviewed findings from 21 studies, most of which examined the effects of coconut oil or coconut products on cholesterol levels. Eight were clinical trials, in which volunteers consumed different types of fats, including coconut oil, butter, and unsaturated vegetable oils (such as olive, sunflower, safflower, and corn oil) for short periods of time. Compared with the unsaturated oils, coconut oil raised total, HDL, and LDL cholesterol levels, although not as much as butter did.
These findings jibe with results from a study by Dr. Sun and colleagues in the Nov. 23, 2016, issue of The British Medical Journal, which examined the links between different types of saturated fatty acids and heart disease. Compared with other saturated fats (like palmitic acid, which is abundant in butter), lauric acid didn’t appear to raise heart risk quite as much. But that’s likely because American diets typically don’t include very much lauric acid, so it’s harder to detect any effect, Dr. Sun notes.
However, some recent studies have also questioned the role saturated fat plays in heart disease and this has created confusion among patients, their physicians, and the public 77), 78), 79), 80), 81), 82), 83), 84), 85), 86). One meta-analysis of 21 studies said that there was not enough evidence to conclude that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease, but that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat may indeed reduce risk of heart disease.
A randomized controlled trials 87) that lowered intake of dietary saturated fat and replaced it with polyunsaturated vegetable oil reduced cardiovascular disease by ≈30%, similar to the reduction achieved by statin treatment. Prospective observational studies in many populations showed that lower intake of saturated fat coupled with higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and of other major causes of death and all-cause mortality. In contrast, replacement of saturated fat with mostly refined carbohydrates and sugars is not associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and did not reduce cardiovascular disease in clinical trials. Replacement of saturated with unsaturated fats lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, a cause of atherosclerosis, linking biological evidence with incidence of cardiovascular disease in populations and in clinical trials. Taking into consideration the totality of the scientific evidence, satisfying rigorous criteria for causality, the authors concluded strongly that lowering intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, will lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease. This recommended shift from saturated to unsaturated fats should occur simultaneously in an overall healthful dietary pattern such as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) or the Mediterranean diet as emphasized by the 2013 American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology lifestyle guidelines and the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
A systematic review conducted by Prof. Ronald P. Mensink from the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at the Maastricht University, the Netherlands, to assess the effect of modifying saturated fatty acids intake on serum lipid and lipoprotein levels by exchanging saturated fatty acids with monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids or carbohydrates, in order to inform and contribute to the development of updated WHO recommendations on saturated fatty acids intake. Results of the multiple regression analysis (multiple regression analysis is a statistical process for estimating the relationships among variables, it is used to explain the relationship between one continuous dependent variable and two or more independent variables) 88) concluded that the effects on the serum lipoprotein profile of reducing saturated fatty acids intake by replacing a mixture of saturated fatty acids with polyunsaturated fatty acids predominantly linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid or monounsaturated fatty acids predominantly oleic acid were more favourable than replacing saturated fatty acids with a mixture of carbohydrates. For total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in particular, the most favourable effects were observed for polyunsaturated fatty acids. These results are consistent across a wide range of saturated fatty acids intakes including intakes of less than 10% of total energy intake. Differences in effects of the individual saturated fatty acids on the serum lipoprotein profile were observed. Compared with a mixture of carbohydrates, an increased intake of saturated fatty acids (lauric, myristic or palmitic acid) raised serum total, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, and lowered triglyceride levels, while increased intake of stearic acid (saturated fatty acid with an 18-carbon chain) did not appear to have a significant effect on these or other serum lipid values. Lauric acid alone reduced the total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratios as compared with a mixture of carbohydrates. No significant gender-specific differences were observed regarding saturated fatty acids intake and effects on serum lipids and lipoproteins, nor were the observed results systematically affected by dates of study publication, or inclusion of liquid diets in studies. In addition, conclusions did not change if subjects were stratified for baseline levels at the start of the study. It was not possible to perform subgroup analysis by type of carbohydrate. (Source 89)))).
Recent published review on available clinical trials and scientific studies involving 15 studies with over 59,000 participants 90) — found the evidence on (current) to March 2014 —- that cutting down on saturated fat led to a 17% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and strokes), but no effects on the risk of dying. The review 91) found no clear health benefits of replacing saturated fats with starchy foods or protein. Changing the type of fat we eat, replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, seems to protect us better, reducing our risk of heart and vascular problems. The greater the decrease in saturated fat, and the more serum total cholesterol is reduced, the greater the protection. People who are currently healthy appear to benefit as much as those at increased risk of heart disease or stroke (people with high blood pressure, high serum cholesterol or diabetes, for example), and people who have already had heart disease or stroke. There was no clear difference in effect between men and women.
Due to coconut oil high content of saturated fat, many health organizations advise against the consumption of coconut oil, including the United States Food and Drug Administration 92), World Health Organization 93), International College of Nutrition 94), the United States Department of Health and Human Services 95), American Dietetic Association 96), American Heart Association 97), 98), 99), British National Health Service 100), British Nutrition Foundation 101), 102) and Dietitians of Canada 103) advise that coconut oil consumption should be limited or avoided.
Coconut oil and Saturated Fats
Coconut (Cocos Nucifera) is a tropical fruit commonly used in Asian countries as a food source and its oils are used as complementary medicine. The oil extracted from fresh coconut meat (virgin coconut oil) was produced using freeze-thawed method with no preservatives or additives added, contains more medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) (70–85%) compared to other coconut oils. The medium chain fatty acids are easily oxidized lipids and are not stored in adipose tissue unlike long chain fatty acids (LCFAs). About 84% of coconut oil calories come from saturated fat. To compare, 14% of olive oil’s calories are from saturated fat and 63% of butter’s are. Coconut oil belongs to a group of vegetable oils that has an abundance of lauric acid that has less effect on total cholesterol and LDL-c (LDL helps form plaque that blocks your arteries) and is a better alternative to butter and hydrogenated vegetable fats.
Coconut oil is high in saturated fats and thus, there are concerns that it could lead to more artherogenic lipid profiles (promoting the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries). Some past studies have found that coconut oil supplementation increases adverse lipids, thus potentially elevating cardiovascular disease risk (e.g. heart attack, stroke).
What’s my daily limit for foods with saturated fats ?
The American Heart Association recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat 104).
For example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fats.
That’s about 13 grams of saturated fats a day.
There’s a lot of conflicting information about saturated fats. Should I eat them or not ?
The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats – which are found in butter, cheese, coconut oil, ghee, red meat and other animal-based foods. Decades of sound science has proven it can raise your “bad” cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease.
A new science advisory from the American Heart Association recommended against ingesting coconut oil 105).
The more important thing to remember is the overall dietary picture. Saturated fats are just one piece of the puzzle. In general, you can’t go wrong eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fewer calories.
When you hear about the latest “diet of the day” or a new or odd-sounding theory about food, consider the source. The American Heart Association makes dietary recommendations only after carefully considering the latest scientific evidence.
Therefore, for now, use coconut oil sparingly. Most of the research so far has consisted of short-term studies to examine its effect on cholesterol levels. We don’t really know how consuming coconut oil long term affects heart disease. And we don’t think coconut oil is as healthful as vegetable oils like olive oil and soybean oil, which are mainly unsaturated fat and therefore both lower LDL and increase HDL. Coconut oil’s special HDL-boosting effect may make it “less bad” than the high saturated fat content would indicate, but it’s still probably not the best choice among the many available oils to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Can coconut oil cure dementia or Alzheimer’s disease ?
One component of coconut oil is caprylic acid. The body breaks down this acid into substances called ketone bodies – a chemical your body can use as a source of energy for the brain. Ketone bodies are usually derived from the breakdown of muscle tissue during starvation or when a person’s diet lacks carbohydrates. It is thought that ketone bodies could be an alternative source of energy for damaged brain cells that have lost their ability to use glucose, which may happen in dementia. However, this theory has not been proven.
Caprylic acid is an ingredient in a medical food known as Axona, which claims to delay the symptoms of dementia. A clinical trial evaluated the daily use of Axona in 152 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. These results were published in the Journal Nutrition and Metabolism in 2009. The researchers found there were no overall improvements in memory test scores for those who took Axona daily, over a period of 90 days. However, they did seen an improvement in people with Alzheimer’s disease who were APOE-4 negative compared to the group who did not recieve Axona. A longer term trial was not undertaken.
There is no scientific evidence that supports the use of coconut oil to treat or prevent dementia.
Coconut oil has a wonderful flavor and there’s no problem using coconut oil occasionally. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so cooks are experimenting with using it instead of butter or vegetable shortening to make pie crust and other baked goods that require a solid source of fat. And if you’re preparing a Thai or Indian dish, cooking with coconut oil may be essential.
But for now, there is nothing healthy about eating coconut oil, so use coconut oil sparingly, because coconut oil high in saturated fat, calories and cholesterol, which have been proven in clinical studies can lead to heart disease, stroke and other health problems. Despite coconut oil’s special HDL-boosting effect which may make it “less bad” than its high saturated fat content would indicate, it’s still not the best choice among the many available oils to reduce the risk of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology advisory panel 106), cardiovascular disease was lowered by about 30 percent, similar to the effect of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs when vegetable oil replaced saturated fat in the diet. The switch to healthier oils also was associated with lower rates of death from all causes 107).
Eating too much fat can cause you to gain weight which leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, arthritis and cancers.
The most recent American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology advisory 108), reaffirms that longstanding advice. Here are some of the scientific highlights:
- Randomized controlled trials that lowered intake of dietary saturated fat and replaced it with polyunsaturated vegetable oil reduced cardiovascular disease by about 30 percent – similar to results achieved by some cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins 109).
- Prospective observational studies in many populations showed that a lower intake of saturated fat with a higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease 110).
- Several studies found that coconut oil – which is predominantly saturated fat but has been widely touted recently as healthy – raised LDL cholesterol to the same degree as other saturated fats found in butter, beef fat, ghee and palm oil.
- Replacing saturated fat with mostly refined carbohydrate and sugars does not lower rates of heart disease, but replacing these fats with whole grains is associated with lower rates. This indicates that saturated fat and refined carbohydrate are equally bad relative to heart disease risk.
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