Coconut Oil & Why Our Doctor is Disagreeing with the AHA

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room…Saturated fats.  

On June 15, 2017, the American Heart Association released a statement declaring coconut oil is bad.

How many times have we heard that saturated fat is bad, evil, villainous?!  How long and how hard have you tried to avoid saturated fat in your diet? Do you try hard or not at all? Do you think it’s unfair that some people can eat all that devilish saturated fat that they want and not have heart disease while you maintain is strict and clean diet that stays far away from saturated fat, but your doctor tells you that you are at risk for heart disease because of your lipid profile?  

Let’s cover some key points about saturated fat.

Saturated fats are a life sustaining part of nutrition.  A little bit of biochemistry knowledge tells us that the body uses saturated fats to make many keys elements in the body.  If we do not consume enough saturated fats our bodies will do it for us.  You read that right, if we don’t have enough saturated fat in your diet the body will convert excessive carbohydrates and proteins into saturated fat.  Here are a few things that saturated fat does in our bodies…

  • Responsible for building and maintaining cell walls in the body.

  • Precursor for sex hormones

  • Important for brain health and function

  • Supports immune function (particularly with vitamin D synthesis)

I would like to point out that in the article released by the American Heart Association, they say that it is okay to use coconut oil topically.  The issue with this statement is that your skin is the bodies largest organ and the coconut oil will still be absorbed into the body and used. So, they are telling you it’s not okay to eat coconut oil, but you can put it on your skin where it will be absorbed into your body just the same.

Why you should eat coconut oil.

An essential element of coconut oil is MCTs or medium chain triglycerides.  Not only are these useful sources of energy for your body.  Your body can utilize them as soon as you ingest them. They help control and balance the hormones that control your appetite. P.s. they also help burn fat!  One study found that consuming MCT oils helped reduce body fat and triglycerides more than omega 6 vegetable oils. After eight weeks, the experiment showed the MCT oil group lost more weight, body fat and subcutaneous fat, all while experiencing a 15 percent drop in triglycerides and LDL.

Now I am sure you are thinking back to what you heard about saturated fats raising your cholesterol and putting you at risk for heart disease.  While that is true, cholesterol is never a yes or no question.  There are a lot of gray areas that need to be covered before you can fully understand how cholesterol works in your body.

This study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that saturated fat raised the “bad” or LDL cholesterol, but it also improved the “good” or HDL cholesterol.  You will never get the full picture if you just look at your “bad “cholesterol.  You must also look at the ratio of total cholesterol to LDL along with particle number and size. This is a much stronger predictor of heart attacks than LDL by itself.

Yes, research shows coconut oil is approximately 90% saturated fats and does increase the total cholesterol in the body... but you are not increasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.  What increases your risk of heart disease and stroke is inflammation, and coconut oil is naturally anti-inflammatory.

Do not completely remove saturated fats from your diet.  However, not all saturated fats are created equal.  Make sure they are coming from high quality sources like coconut oil or grass-fed beef.  By eliminating refined carbohydrates and sugar from your diet, saturated fat will not be a problem for you.

Other studies confirm carbs worsen blood levels of the even chained saturated-fats, which cause heart disease. These carbs drive your liver to create more fat in your blood, a process called lipogenesis triggered by alcohol, soda, sugar-sweetened drinks, starches and sugars. Whole, healthy-fat foods like butter, meat or cheese do not increase this process.
— Excerpt from a blog post by Dr. Mark Hyman in April of 2016

Saturated fats are NOT evil!

To sum up this post, remember that saturated fats, especially coconut oil, are not evil.  A healthy & balanced diet that is high in vegetables, fiber and high-quality meats, but low in sugar and refined carbs, will keep you in tip-top shape for years to come.  

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