Is Coconut Oil Bad for You?
widespread misconception that coconut oil is bad for you because it is said to
raise blood cholesterol and cause heart disease. The only "proof" is
one four-decades old study. The study used
hydrogenated coconut oil.
It is now
known that the process of hydrogenation creates "trans fatty acids" (TFAs), which are toxic entities that enter cell membranes,
block utilization of essential fatty acids (EFAs) and
impede cell functionality. TFAs also cause a rise in
blood cholesterol. These substances are not present in natural coconut oil.
words, a study based on hydrogenated coconut oil has no relevance to the
non-hydrogenated coconut milk or coconut oil that you eat.
studies of coconut-consuming populations such as those found in Polynesia and Sri Lanka, show that "dietary coconut
oil does not lead to high serum cholesterol nor to
high coronary heart disease mortality or morbidity."(See endnote 1.)
studies show no change in serum cholesterol level from coconut oil. (See
endnote 2.) And if it is true that the herpes virus and cytomegalovirus have a
causative role in the initial formation of atherosclerotic plaques (See endnote
3.), coconut oil may be beneficial in preventing heart disease. (See Benefits below.)
Coconut Oil as Saturated Fat
reason people believe coconut oil must be bad for you is misguided association:
it is a saturated fat and "saturated fats are bad for you." Dietary
guidelines inevitably fail to distinguish between different kinds of saturated
fats and insist that saturated fats (meaning all saturated fats) are harmful.
This is not
just misleading. It is bad science. Leading scientists now recognize that just
as there is good cholesterol, there are also good saturated fats.
classified as short-, medium- or long-chain based on the number of carbon
molecules they contain. Nearly two-thirds of the saturated fat in coconut oil
consists of medium-chain fatty acids.
When we eat
long-chain fatty acids, they must be emulsified by bile salts in the small
intestine before they can be absorbed into our body. Short- and medium-chain
fatty acids, such as those in coconut milk, are absorbed directly through the
portal vein to the liver, where they are immediately available to the body.
words, most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is easily digestible and
converted into quick energy. And these types of fatty acids are less likely to
cause obesity because they are immediately used by the body and have no
opportunity to be stored.
Benefits of Coconut Oil
Nearly 50% of the fatty acid in natural
coconut oil is lauric acid, which converts to the
fatty acid monolaurin in the body. Lauric acid has adverse effects on a variety of microorganisms including bacteria, yeast, fungi, and
It destroys the lipid membrane of such enveloped viruses as
HIV, measles, Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), influenza and cytomegalovirus
(CMV). Its usefulness in treating AIDS is currently under investigation. It is
a main component of human breast milk and helps protect children from illness
acid, which comprises another 7% of coconut oil fat content, also stimulates
words: not only does coconut oil not cause heart problems, it is good for you.
To quote Dr. Mary Enig: "The research over four
decades concerning coconut oil in the diet and heart disease is quite clear:
coconut oil has been shown to be beneficial."(See endnote 4.)
is a "functional food," defined as a food that "provides a
health benefit over and beyond the basic nutrients."(See endnote 5.) It is
an immune-system enhancer.
Trans Fatty Acids - The Real Cause for Concern
the real problem fats in our diets are the trans fatty
acids, mentioned above as a by-product of hydrogenating fats. Here are just a
few of their adverse effects: lower the "good" HDL cholesterol and
raise the "bad" LDL cholesterol while raising total serum cholesterol
levels; increase blood insulin levels in humans in response to glucose load,
increasing risk for diabetes; affect immune response by lowering efficiency of
B cell response and increasing proliferation of T cells; interfere with
utilization of essential omega-3 fatty acids; and escalate adverse effects of
essential fatty acid deficiency.
these effects, and more, every time you consume hydrogenated or partially
hydrogenated oil, which is present in most processed food, including margarine,
potato chips, baked goods, etc.
Why are We Misinformed?
word: economics. Beginning with a flawed study four decades ago, continuing
through the 1950s, intensifying in the 1980s, and again in the 1990s, the
misinformation about coconut oil has been promulgated by such economically
motivated organizations as the American Soybean Association (ASA), the Corn
Products Company (CPC International) and the Center for Science in the Public
They are aided by the United States Food and Drug
Administration (FDA), many of whose key personnel are recruited from and return
to the vegetable oil industry. Previously, coconut oil was widely used in baked
goods and fried goods until their publicity campaigns, based on erroneous
information, totally discredited coconut oil and caused its nearly complete
elimination from the American diet.
after years of denial, The FDA and CSPI are finally talking about the harmful
effects of trans fatty acids, evidence of which has
been accumulating since the 1950s.
Nonetheless, they continue to disparage
coconut oil and take no effective action to limit TFAs,
which already have been banned in some European countries. TFAs
will finally be listed on food labels, starting in 2006 — why has it taken them
TFA dangers have been known for decades and continue to cause disease!
News items coming from the USDA and FDA still lump TFAs
with saturated fats, which are natural and do contain nutrients vital for our
bodies. The current FDA Consumer1s Guide to Fats was last updated in 1999 and
consistently warns against (all) saturated fats, while failing to mention any
harmful effects of trans fatty acids.
effective is this brainwashing? Many of you will not believe the facts on these
pages and will continue to avoid coconut oil and coconut milk out of health
concerns. Despite the proven benefits. We invite you
to investigate further.
reading: Coconut: In Support of Good Health in the 21st Century by Mary G. Enig.