Pardon my pun, but seriously, guys… Internet healthy-food lovers and coconut oil use advocates have all been taken by surprise last week… The turmoil started when American Heart Association (AHA, website – http://www.heart.org/) have releases their latest insight into the correlations between Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease. They even tried to stress the importance of this research and its findings by adding “A Presidential Advisory From the AHA” to the article’s title, thinking “that’ll stir up some talking”. And it certainly did.
Over the course of last week, we’ve seen all of our favorite, prominent and simply respected Alternative Health websites and magazines have put out articles upon articles talking about how coconut oil maybe bad for you. Some of those articles don’t even mention anything from AHA. Why? I’m guessing, writers sometimes rewrite other people’s articles, leaving out the clutter… So eventually those articles don’t have anything viable in them, don’t cite any major researches or anything at all, just mentioning the 2-3 articles writers skimmed through when “preparing” the base for their own 2 words on the subject.
Well, we’ve decided to really look into the AHA research report, especially since their president insisted on it.. If you’re interested – click here to read the full report as PDF (25 pages). You can also right-click on it or touch-and-hold (mobile) and save it to your device, but the language in there… We’ve spent several hours trying to decipher the hard, technical, medical language. It is hard to even understand their advisory, since they don’t clearly state anything.. Yes, it’s a medical findings report, it’s official, so they have to be dry and try not to make any assumptions… But people, at least tell us what the hell you came up with.. All they talk is that this action increases chances of cardiovascular disease and that – doesn’t…. Well, Naturally Beautiful life is on the case, we’ve read through the whole article so you don’t have to… So here’s what we’ve discovered…
Coconut Oil & Saturated Fats
Coconut Oil contains lots of fat. It’s not news, it’s a known fact. Let’s look into this deeper. USDA (a trustworthy source of tables of nutrients) has published their findings on Contents of Coconut Oil and here is the quick breakdown:
Coconut Oil Nutrients
Amount: 1 table spoon (about 13.6 grams)
- Calories: 117
- Total fat: 14 grams (21% of suggested Daily Value [DV] of 2000 calorie diet)
- Saturated fat: 12 g (60% DV)
- Polyunsaturated fat: 0.2 g
- Monounsaturated fat: 0.8 g
- not a significant source of any of the following: Cholesterol, Sodium, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Sugar, Protein, Vitamins A, B, C, D, Calcium, Iron or Magnesium.
So.. Generally speaking, coconut oil is straight up fat. It looks like fat, but smells and tastes way better.
Looking Deeper into Coconut Oil Fats (fatty acids)
To understand if there is any reason to be worried and exclude coconut oil from our diets, lets look deeper into what fats and fatty acids are contained in coconut oil and what are their effects on human body.
Is it good or bad? Some studies along with the one that stirred all this coconut oil turmoil state that saturated fat is bad for you and your cardiovascular apparatus. Funny fact, word keyword “saturated fat” is present over 250 times in that report, at least 10 times per page.. Are they trying to scare people off?? I think so. Saturated fat mostly comes from animals and their byproducts: meat, milk and its products, etc. Certain vegetables and fruit have it, like our favorite coconut oil or palm kernel oil (which is pretty close to coconut). According to another trustworthy source – Wikipedia – the effects of saturated fat on the risks of developing cardiovascular and diabetic diseases is controversial (no dominating scientifically based opinion). Some researchers state that their studies prove increases risks, while others reject their findings and insist that more and longer research should be conducted. Third group advocates examining the proportions of saturated to unsaturated fats and acting to your best knowledge as to incorporate that into your diet.
Saturated fat usually contains several different fatty acids. While some of them might affect you negatively, others have only positive effects on our body. We’ve already touched upon the benefits of some of them, but let’s quickly review more:
- Lauric Acid (makes 47% of fat in Coconut Oil) :: could help treat acne, helps cholesterol by increasing high-density lipoproteins (the good cholesterol) decreasing atherosclerotic risks, with some positive effects on coronary artery condition
- Butyric acid (butter fat, 0%), butanoic acid, BTA :: has numerous beneficial effects in humans on homeostasis, diabetes and obesity; inflammation and immune functions (antimicrobial and anticarcinogenic qualities); helps prevent ulcers and colon cancer, it does somehow help cancer by inhibiting sick cells, but effects have not been researched well yet; helps cognitive functions and memory improvement. Please, note, this fatty acid IS NOT present in coconut oil, indicated with “0%” earlier. Listing it only for completeness of this article knowledge base.
- Myristic acid (named after nutmeg, 18%) :: doesn’t have any adverse positive or negative effects on our body, except for quick absorption through skin, so is usually a part of penetrating ointments; mostly used in cosmetics and chemistry (repels water).
- Palmitic Acid (palm tree oil, 9%) :: makes great explosives (napalm), used in detergents, soaps and cosmetics, makes processed foods taste better, helps in schizophrenia treatment; health wise this acid (being discovered in 1840) has received quite a number of studies, and research shows that this acid can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, by increasing levels of bad cholesterol in blood. It is also a strong booster of metastasis (spreading of cancer) effect. So yeah, finally we found a possible reason for reappearing discussion if Coconut Oil is bad for you.
- Stearic Acid (animal fat/tallow, 3%) :: often found with Palmitic Acid, it is also vastly used in cosmetics and cleaning products, often as (or part of) lubricants, softening agents and release promoters, used in production of candles and fireworks, also as dietary food supplements. Despite neighboring Palmitic Acid, this acid doesn’t have too bad of effects on blood cholesterol level or cancer spread promoting agents, thus it is also off the table for now.
From Report: The net effect of increasing lauric acid and decreasing carbohydrates is a slight reduction in the ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol.
Examples of Saturated Fat in various foods
Examples of popular foods may be beef (fatty), pork, lamb, huge bird poultry, poultry skin, tallow, lard, high fat milk, cream (including whipped cream), cheese, butter (up to 50%), many other fatty milk dairy products (2%+ milk), coconut oil obviously, palm oil, many nuts & seeds. What distinguishes coconut oil in this list is that all of the foods listed contain cholesterol, while coconut oil actually contains mostly lauric fatty acid, that combats cholesterol.
Replace in your diet with more of the following
Recommended replacements of those foods from above with unsaturated fats and similar energy production would be vegetables and fruits, low-fat (2% or less) dairy products, skinless poultry, fish, whole grains, other nuts (research), with that eat less red meats and don’t drink soda. This will mostly replace saturated fat with mostly unsaturated, and give more glucose from natural sources, so don’t over do it with added sugar from drinks. Now let’s look into more of what makes unsaturated fat so much better….
What is unsaturated fat? How good is it for you? Is it good or what? Those are all meaningful questions. Unsaturated fat is different from saturated. It contains less energy to release, so is the reason such food might feel less energizing in a long run. It consists, depending on the source, of 3 naturally existing types of fatty acids: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fats. Below we will look into how those 3 different types can effectively replace saturated fats in our diet and see where can we get our hands on more unsaturated fats (if that is good for us).
Can fully replace saturated fat in your diet. AHA’s report actually insists that clinical studies that used polyunsaturated fat to replace saturated fat showed reduction of risks of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, if saturated fats were replaced by same-energy carbohydrates (from grains, mostly), there were no changes of risk levels. A bit unrelated, but does show how hard it is for vegans.. =) This fatty acid promotes protection from cardiac arrhythmias. Some studies noted though that large intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids could lead to coronary atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women… But it still helps greatly reducing risk of heart attacks (thanks to omega6). Promotes better cognitive function and behavioral action. Best nutrient for our brain’s grey matter, may eventually be proven to help sclerosis. Some studies found higher intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids promoted better risks of developing cancer, but many other studies going for same results were left without any assumptions to make, found no correlations. Best found in olive oil, canola, sunflower, sesame, avocado, safflower oil, walnuts & chia seeds, peanuts & peanut butter, soybeans, seaweed & seafood (tuna, sardines), wild salmon.
Can fully replace saturated fat. Substitution could lead to increased physical activity, less anger and irritability. Less help with cardiovascular than poly-, but still good assistance. Was found to sometimes promote insulin resistance, when cells fail to respond to insulin properly contributing to very high blood sugar levels. Presence of high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids in blood could nowadays signal developing breast cancer. People in Mediterranean are for their whole lives subjected to the diet high with monounsaturated fats, which come as omega-3 (from fish) or olive oil, and their aerial statistic for coronary heart disease is microscopic compared to the rest of the world, including USA. Eat more olives and avocados (they are good for you), olive oil, whole milk products, red meat, sunflower seeds and many nuts (cashews, sesame), corn, oats, etc.
When your diet includes both omega-3 and omega-6, it is greatly recommended to keep their intake ration of under 4 to 1. For best health related benefits that is.
Trans unsaturated fats (Trans fats)
Should not replace saturated fat. Quite unhealthy. It is sometimes present in small amounts in its natural habitat – nature. These days it’s widely used for processed foods, fried foods, baked packaged goods, etc, – a part of our lives… But it is easy to avoid, if you just look out for it. It is a great source of cholesterol. Trans fat has been proven to be the cause, depending how you consume it, of course, of increased risk of coronary artery disease, a leading cause of death in Western nations. All world organizations agree no more than 1% of 2000 calorie diet should be eaten as trans fat..
Scary part from AHA report
“A recent survey reported that 72% of the American public rated coconut oil as a “healthy food” compared with 37% of nutritionists. This disconnect between lay and expert opinion can be attributed to the marketing of coconut oil in the popular press. [skip] A carefully controlled experiment compared the effects of coconut oil, butter, and safflower oil [for] linoleic acid. Both butter and coconut oil raised LDL cholesterol compared with safflower oil, butter more than coconut oil, as predicted. Another carefully controlled experiment found that coconut oil significantly increased LDL cholesterol compared with olive oil. Coconut oil raised LDL cholesterol in 7 trials, significantly in 6 of them. [skip] Clinical trials that compared direct effects on CVD of coconut oil and other dietary oils have not been reported. However, because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD, and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.”
You can see how generally speaking this report pounds coconut oil into the ground.. I mean, i knew there were “better” oils delivering “healthier” options of more unsaturated fat vs that of saturated of coconut oil. But then again, those other oils have different boiling heating temperatures, and garlic roasted in sunflower seed oil is prone to more burning than when roasted in coconut oil. Butter and flax seed oil boil at about 200F. Sesame oil, both extra virgin olive oil & coconut oil, lard, vegetable oil will boil at 350-375F. Canola oil and virgin olive oil at 390-400F. Refined coconut oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, corn oil will go off at about 450F. And finally extra light olive oil (see how complicated it is with olive oil?) goes for 470, topped only by safflower oil’s 510F and avocado oil at 570F. They don’t specify the virginity of coconut oil, but for cooking it could be as much as 150F heat difference, that will definitely kill any eatable vitamins and minerals, if they were to survive lower coconut oil temperature…
But I do see their meris, AHA did comb through a number of researches and studies, starting as far as in 1950-s, and ending just recent in years of 2016-2017. They did a big job and over the time they’ve developed an organisational presidential opinion, which they released to the public. I say, take consideration when reading it all, but definitely check it out, the report is full of useful information.
Butter has 66% of saturated fat (of all fat) vs 87% in Coconut oil. From just this some people might assume coconut oil is worse for you than butter. Wait, wait, maybe in 2-3 years from now all this coconut oil craze will turn into products being developed that could be called something like “I can’t believe it’s not Coconut Oil”.. Heavily processed to remove all the saturated fats.. Is that a possibility? I think so..
But Coconut Oil is still good for you! Don’t panic. It’s all the Big Olive Oil or Big Canola spreading these rumors. =)
On one hand, there are big official governmental organizations like American and British Dietetic Associations, American Heart Association, World Heart Federation, British National Health Service, and many others advise that saturated fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Well, they are getting the money to scare people… Or maybe they are trying to promote their countries’ politics. For example, maybe Big Canola Oil (as we saw, it’s really good for you supposedly) or Big Mediterranean Oils have paid for those researches, and of course such deals will make results favorable to those world conglomerates..
On the other hand, there’s a number of independent researches that do conduct studies and researches and publish their findings. Privately funded companies run their own studies. Findings mentioned in researches published on such global platforms as Open Heart (by Harcombe et al), Food & Nutrition (Schwab et al), famous words of L. Hooper or R. Micha, many of those do state that their studies were pronounced inconsistent, that no special correlations were found between saturated fats consumption and changes of risks of cardiovascular diseases. And they ran tests similar to those of AHA published research..
So.. Generally we at Naturally Beautiful Life would like to recommend our readers: don’t panic, don’t run to the kitchen and start dumping coconut oil into trash.. Coconut oil is still very nutritious and beneficial for you. Just watch out for saturated fat intake you do, check other foods you eat for saturated fats and try to make your own educated decision. Don’t go blindly listening to all these high-sitting people telling you what to do. Be your own health advocate!