Ask The Doctor: Coconut Oil And Health
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Q. I have started noticing more coconut oil at the grocery store and have heard it is better for you than a lot of other oils. Is that true?
A. I’ve also noticed that coconut oil seems to be catching on these days. Coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat, which is a higher percentage than butter , beef fat , or even lard . 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 our hearts.
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.
Coconut is 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 dish, cooking with coconut oil may be essential.
Types Of Healthy Fat In Oils
Incorporating a variety of different oils in your diet can help to provide an array of different micronutrients.
Monounsaturated fats contain a single unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. A good source of vitamin E, monounsaturated fats are found only in plants. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends MUFAs make up 15% to 20% of total daily calories.
Polyunsaturated fats have more than one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule and are found in plants and fish such as salmon. PUFAs also contain vitamin E and high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acidsnutrients essential for brain function and cell growth.
Some oils are high in omega-3 fatty acidshealthy fats that help to reduce inflammation and prevent the formation of arterial plaque. Avocado, canola, flaxseed, olive, peanut, sunflower, and walnut oils are all good sources of omega-3.
Heart Uk Says Bbc Coconut Oil Claim Not To Be Trusted
HEART UK are very concerned regarding the latest coverage of coconut – See article here. The idea that consuming coconut oil lowers cholesterol made by the BBC programme Trust me Im a Doctor, is both misleading, unhelpful and not to be trusted.
The majority of respected scientific evidence shows that the saturated fats in coconut oil raise the bad cholesterol and the very limited experiment in the programme is misleading viewers to believe that coconut oil has beneficial effects on cholesterol.
HEART UK is delighted to see that the media are encouraging the use of olive oil and discouraging the use of butter because of their effects on blood cholesterol.
Coconut oil, unlike most vegetable oils, is solid at room temperature and is 85% saturated fat which when compared to butter at 52% and lard at 40% saturated fat puts it into context.
Some have argued that coconut oil contains a large amount of medium chain fats which are metabolised differently however the predominant fats in coconut oils are Lauric acid, Myristic acid and Palmitic acid all of which are classified as long chain saturated fats and all have been shown to raise the level of damaging LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Small variations in cholesterol resulting from changes in diet can be difficult to demonstrate due to the variability in many factors including:
Fat and Fatty Acid Intake and Metabolic Effects in the Human BodyAnn Nutr Metab 2009 55:162172 DOI: 10.1159/000229001
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Does Coconut Oil Deserve Its Health Halo
Its been known for a long time that coconut oil raises blood levels of artery-damaging LDL cholesterol, one expert said.
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Coconut oil continues to be widely touted as a miracle food. Proponents, including a slew of celebrities, claim it promotes weight loss, lowers blood pressure and blood glucose, protects against heart disease, increases energy, reduces inflammation, erases wrinkles and even counters Alzheimers disease. Plus it tastes great, so what could be bad? And if you believe all that, Ill offer to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.
When I see a product with a long list of things its supposed to fix, I know it cant possibly be true, said Marion Nestle, a New York University specialist on nutrition and food policy. Coconut oil has acquired a healthful aura as a superfood and lots of people believe its true. Theyre guilty of magical thinking and need to stop and think, Theyre trying to sell me something. Nonetheless, a survey conducted in 2016 found that 72 percent of Americans viewed coconut oil as a healthy food.
The time is long overdue to relieve coconut oil of a halo that scientific evidence shows it doesnt deserve and instead give consumers a chance to use the $40 they may spend on a 32-ounce jar of coconut oil to invest in foods that can actually enhance their health.
Nor is coconut oil a diet food. Like other vegetable oils, a tablespoon of coconut oil supplies 117 calories, 15 more than a tablespoon of butter.
So Can You Have It In The Kitchen
Yes, you can have a bottle of coconut oil in the kitchen armoire and use it from time to time if you are in perfect health. It is an oil that has a practical pastry side compared to other vegetable oils because it remains solid at room temperature. It has a sweet nut flavor that appeals to taste and its texture lends itself well to certain preparations without cooking or stir-fries with a tropical touch. In a context where there are plenty of good vegetable oils available on the market, you can vary them. And coconut oil is part of that variety.
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Potential Risks Of Coconut Oil
Taken in moderation and used as a topical agent for moisturizing, coconut oil can provide many benefits. Still, there are a few potential health risks to be aware of, including the amount of saturated fat the oil contains. Here are some other potential health risks of coconut oil:
Increased Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
Even though some studies have shown that coconut oil can boost good cholesterol and lower the bad, other studies have shown that compared to other oils like olive oil, coconut oil raised harmful LDL cholesterol levels. High levels of LDL cholesterol can raise your risk of developing heart diseases or suffering from a stroke.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day in your diet. As stated earlier, coconut oil contains more than that in one serving, meaning its easy to overdo saturated fat in your diet when you consume coconut oil. Too much saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol, increasing risks of heart disease and stroke.
What Does The Evidence Say
Research on MCTs cannot be applied to coconut oil
Research on medium-chain triglycerides is widely quoted as supporting use of coconut oil. However, coconut oil only contains a very small amount of medium-chain fatty acids. The main fatty acid is lauric acid, which acts like a long-chain fatty acid in the body.
Evidence in humans is lacking
Research in animals is also widely quoted. This type of research can help build theories , but these must be tested in humans before we can draw any meaningful conclusions. There are only a small number of research trials on coconut oil in humans. Overall, they show that coconut oil raises all types of cholesterol in the blood.
Coconut oil is not typically eaten in the Pacific
Epidemiological research from the Pacific Islands is widely quoted as supporting use of coconut oil. However, this research is on squeezed coconut milk/cream rather than coconut oil. Coconut oil was typically used as a hair conditioner or moisturiser rather than eaten. Furthermore, the traditional Pacific diet was far different to that in New Zealand, based largely on fresh vegetables and fruit, seafood, and with no processed or junk foods.
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Is Coconut Oil Bad For Your Cholesterol
Ever since I started using coconut oil, my cholesterol has spiked, writes this weeks house call. Im afraid coconut oil with all that saturated fat is creating more harm than good. Should I continue to use it?
Since I expressed my love for medium-chain triglyceride oil or MCT oil, Ive received this question several times.
I call MCTs a super fuel for your cells because your body uses this kind of fat very efficiently. Your cells burn MCTs for energy while storing very little as fat, boosting your metabolism and supporting your immune system.
MCTs also help balance many hormones, including the ones that control your appetite. They keep you feeling full and satisfied. They actually improve your cholesterol profile.
They also help your body 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.
At the same time, as MCT-rich coconut oil becomes more popular, it also becomes a concern among some folks because of its high amounts of saturated fat and potential for raising cholesterol.
The reality is, cholesterol is not black and white. Classifying it as good or bad vastly oversimplifies this molecule, which among its duties helps synthesize vitamin D and hormones while maintaining cell structure.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Your Good Health: Coconut Oil Raises Ldl Cholesterol
Dear Dr. Roach: Ive started using coconut oil instead of milk and sweetener in my coffee. I find that a quarter teaspoon of coconut oil blended with 12 ounces coffee is pretty yummy. But I want to make sure Im not doing any harm, since my own LDL has risen and my HDL has fallen since December. I have heard that coconut oil is healthy, but also that its saturated fat.
Compared with a similar amount of a nontropical vegetable oil, coconut oil does raise both total and LDL cholesterol. The effect is not large. In a review of many studies, the increase in cholesterol was about 10 points in people who started using coconut oil, but the amount that people use will of course be critical: A quarter teaspoon a day is unlikely to have much of an effect on your blood cholesterol levels.
The effect on HDL cholesterol in these studies was different from what you saw, as coconut oil tends to raise the healthy HDL levels. Overall, most experts believe that coconut oil is not as healthy for you as other vegetable oils, such as olive or sunflower oil, but is not as bad for you as saturated animal oils, such as butter or lard.
Dear Dr. Roach: Now that transoceanic travel will resume in the near future, I would welcome your opinion regarding the benefit of flying business class for reducing risk of DVT versus flying economy class.
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Setting And Study Population
This study was conducted at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Chiang Mai University, Thailand. The study protocol was approved by the Ethical Review Committee, Faculty of Pharmacy, Chiang Mai University, Thailand, and was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and Good Clinical Practice.
Inclusion criteria for volunteers were healthy male or female, age from 18 to 25, no history of allergy to coconut oil and/or carboxymethylcellulose , not taking any medications, having all related biomedical parameters in the normal range, ability to provide informed consent and willingness to take VCO and 2% carboxymethylcellulose solution as per protocol, and agreement on follow-up for the duration of the study. Exclusion criteria included volunteers unwillingness to have their biomedical parameters assessed and being pregnant. A total of 35 Thai healthy volunteers were recruited. The participants were free to decide whether to volunteer for the study and written informed consent was obtained from all volunteers before starting the study.
Should You Consume Coconut Oil If You Have High Cholesterol
Although different types of saturated fatty acids are not all damaging to the same degree for cardiovascular health, replacing them with unsaturated fats is still desirable since it has been shown that it allows reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. This is even truer if your doctor has advised you that your cholesterol is high and you need to actively improve it. In this case, coconut oil is not the choice for you. Opt mainly for oils in the family of unsaturated fatty acids, rich in omega 9 like olive oil, or even better oils rich in omega 3 such as rapeseed, linseed, camelina since it is no longer to be demonstrated that we are cruelly lacking omega 3 in our diet and that these oils significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The sporadic consumption of the whole coconut, despite its high content in saturated fat, nevertheless brings other nutrients of interest in addition to its unique taste so appreciated.
In sum, among the sources of highly saturated fat, coconut oil seems to have rather neutral effects on cardiovascular health. Coconut oil would increase the bad cholesterol , but also the good . It would have a rather neutral effect on cholesterol. However, if coconut oil is compared with other unsaturated oils, such as olive, sesame or canola oil, the latter remain more advantageous from the point of view of cardiovascular health.
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Are The Saturated Fats In Coconut Oil Different
Roughly 80 percent of the fat in coconut oil is saturated. Yet some people claim that coconut oil doesnt raise LDL. Not true, says Sacks.
The evidence is straightforward. Some of the short-chain saturated fatty acids in coconut oil dont raise LDL cholesterol. But they dont counteract the effects of the oils longer-chain fatty acids, which do increase LDL cholesterol. So coconut oil raises LDL cholesterol in the same way that, say, butter does.
In a 2016 paper, researchers reviewed the evidence from seven small trials that compared coconut oil to monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils, like olive or soybean. They found that LDL cholesterol levels were higher when people ate coconut oil. The increase was statistically significant in six of the seven studies.
Granted, no large trials have tested coconut oils impact on heart disease. In the absence of any 10,000-person study, we have to go on the best available evidence, which shows that coconut oil raises LDL cholesterol, says Sacks. And coconut oil has no demonstrated benefits to offset the rise in LDL.
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The Effects Of Vco On Plasma Lipoproteins Levels
This open-label, randomized, controlled, crossover trial among 32 healthy participants assessed the effects of daily VCO consumption on plasma lipoproteins levels compared to control . We found that taking 15mL of VCO twice daily for 8 weeks was associated with a significant increase in HDL-C level compared with taking 2% CMC solution. Nevertheless, we did not find any significant differences in total cholesterol, LDL-C, and triglyceride levels between VCO and the control.
Our findings are in line with the findings that VCO consumption is potentially beneficial for increasing HDL-C levels . Our lipid parameter results are similar to a recent study by Cardoso et al. who evaluated the effect of VCO on lipid profiles and anthropometric parameters among patients with coronary artery disease . Cardoso et al. found that HDL-C levels significantly increased in those consuming VCO 15mL for 3 months, while no significant change occurred in total cholesterol or LDL-C levels . Our results are similar to a randomized crossover study by Voon et al. conducted in Malaysia with 45 healthy participants who consumed diets with 30% of energy from fat and two-thirds of fat from coconut oil, palm oil, or extra virgin olive oil . Compared with consuming extra virgin olive oil, consuming coconut oil significantly increased the HDL-C level by 3.48mg/dL .
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Coconut Oil: Neither Superfood Nor Poison
Based on the current evidence, coconut oil is neither a superfood nor a poison. Rather, its role in the diet falls somewhere in between. Coconut oil has a unique flavor and is best consumed in small amounts, as a periodic alternative to other vegetable oils like olive or canola that are rich in unsaturated fat. This dietary choice should be made in the context of an overall healthy dietary pattern, and within the recommended limits for saturated fat intake.
Is Coconut Oil Good Or Bad For You
A Harvard professor called coconut oil pure poison. Not everyone takes such a harsh stand.
By Roni Caryn Rabin and Sophie Egan
In an online video that has gone viral, a Harvard professor takes on the popular food coconut oil, calling it pure poison.
Is it really that bad for you?
The lecture, by Karin Michels, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was delivered in German. It was translated by Business Insider Deutschland and called Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors. While not everyone takes such a harsh view against coconut oil, many experts are skeptical about its rising popularity as a purported health food. The New York Times health writer Roni Rabin and food writer Sophie Egan both answered readers questions about the health benefits of coconut oil. Heres what they had to say.
Q. Why is coconut oil suddenly considered healthy after being declared unhealthy for three decades?
A. Coconut oils image has gotten a makeover in recent years, and many natural food stores stock the product. But despite a lot of hype about it, said Dr. Alice H. Lichtenstein, a Tufts University professor of nutrition science and policy who is vice chair of the federal governments dietary guidelines advisory committee, theres virtually no data to support the hype.
There is little research on the health effects in people of coconut oil, Dr. Lichtenstein said, but there appears to be no independent benefit of consuming it.
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