Over the last few years, coconut oil has been surging in popularity, hailed for its health benefits. But is it really that good for you?
New advice says no. Highlighting the oil’s property’s as a saturated fat, the American Heart Association warning suggests that it is no better for you than beef fat.
“Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,” the American Heart Association said in its recent Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory.
Coconut oil has long been recognised as a source of predominantly saturated fat – around 82% compared with butter’s 63%.
Saturated fats are often described as “unhealthy” fats due to them raising the level of “bad” cholesterol in the blood – a possible cause of clogged arteries and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
The main reason for its recent beloved status is that lauric acid is found in high quantities in coconut oil. This “medium-chain triglyceride” (MCT) is easily digestible, enabling the body to use them as a source of direct energy much like carbohydrates and could potentially help with weight loss.
But context is key, according to Low-Carb Healthy-Fat (LCHF) lifestyle experts Professor Grant Schofield and Dr Caryn Zinn.
“Coconut oil contains a lot of saturated fat, which consumed in large quantities in the context of our existing carb- and sugar-laden, processed-food diet, is problematic for health,” they write in their book What The Fat?
“But in the context of LCHF where you are eating whole, unprocessed foods, including saturated fat along with other types of fat in your diet (apart from trans fats) is fine.”
Either way, AHA guidelines recommend we should be limiting levels of saturated fat in our diets.
“We want to set the record straight on why well-conducted scientific research overwhelmingly supports limiting saturated fat in the diet to prevent diseases of the heart and blood vessels,” AHA’s Dr Frank Sacks said.
Guidelines from the UK’s Public Health England recommend men eat no more than 30g of saturated fat per day, while women are suggested to consume no more than 20g.
That’s still the equivalent of around three tablespoons of coconut oil per day for guys and two for girls which seems like more than plenty to us.
With so many different opinions on the issue, the wisest route appears to be, as with so many other things, to opt for moderation when incorporating coconut oil into your diet.
Are you a fan of coconut oil?