Coconut oil has received an undeserving bad rap over the past few weeks, as the American Heart Association declared war on coconut oil and people put it back on the shelf where it simply doesn’t belong.
I’ll admit that I’m usually the first to jump in on things like this, but I also love to watch a good debate play out. You had the American Heart Association (AHA), Canola/Corn Industry, and Snopes take on Sustainable Dish, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Axe, and the rest of the squad. There’s no question whose on the right side of the issue. (#SquadForTheWin) I’m just here to put the last nail in the coffin so we can all go out, buy more coconut oil, and move on with our lives.
If you want to know who you can trust, whether coconut oil is everything it’s cracked up to be, and whether it causes anything less than the glowing skin of a Disney ice princess, keep reading.
Let’s start with the American Heart Association, shall we?
The American Heart Association (AHA) is an organization dedicated to fighting heart disease through research, education, and by providing information on making healthy lifestyle choices. The AHA recently issued a Presidential Advisory Statement that coconut oil (high in saturated fat) should be replaced with corn, vegetable, canola, and soybean oils, which supposedly lower bad cholesterol with the same efficacy of a statin stallion. An article in USA Today followed it up to convince the masses that coconut oil isn’t healthy and never has been.
- Saturated fats don’t cause heart disease and high LDL cholesterol isn’t an accurate predictor of one’s heart disease risk in the first place. The saturated fat theory has been scientifically debunked by more than 17 meta-analyses and systemic reviews.
- Corn, soybean, and canola oils are genetically modified, highly refined, cause inflammation in the body, contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, abnormal cholesterol profiles, and contain numerous cancer-causing chemicals, including glyphosate.
- The American Heart Association is heavily funded by pharmaceutical companies, industrial food giants, and the vegetable oil industry. These industries profit from the AHA’s bad dietary guidelines and the sick people who follow them.
- The AHA has a long-standing history of creating guidelines that are inconsistent and scientifically unsound. For example, currently on their website, they advocate limiting sugary foods, while placing their endorsement on cereals that are almost entirely made up of sugar.
- The out-dated “studies” that formed the basis of the AHA’s anti-coconut oil stance are observational at best (even Snopes admits this). Observational studies merely suggest a possible correlation. They do not establish causation which should form the basis of any dietary guideline.
- The AHA completely ignored the fact that coconut oil raises good cholesterol, lowers total cholesterol, is an amazing source of medium-chain fatty acids, could lengthen your life, prevent heart disease, and is jam-packed with some good stuff.
- Not a single study has ever shown that coconut oil causes heart disease and although coconut oil is high in saturated fats, we know that saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease either. It’s the high starchy diets, processed foods, and sugary cereals endorsed by the American Heart Association that do.
For years the American Heart Association has been giving health advice that flies in the face of science. They championed trans fats and hydrogenated oils, promoted a low-fat/high carb diet despite evidence linking high carb/processed foods to heart disease, mistakenly created a correlation between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels, promoted low salt diets, turned eggs into the enemy (under the mistaken belief that if you eat something with cholesterol, it will cause high cholesterol), scared people from using butter, proposed an expanded use of statins in healthy people, and urged everyone to avoid red and lean meat – leaving Americans with fewer protein options and pushing them towards the very diet that causes heart disease in the first place.
Their AHA “heart check” seal of approval (which costs thousands of dollars to obtain) is on the box of countless high sugar and processed foods and cereals, as well as processed meats linked to heart disease. So why would the American Heart Association issue recommendations against the very foods or brands that pay for their endorsement?
Are Saturated Fats Bad for You?
Well, technically anything could be potentially bad for you … drinking too much water, taking the stairs three at a time, staring directly into the sun; but saturated fats are actually pretty legit. Somewhere around 50% of our cell membranes are made up of saturated fatty acids and 50% of the fatty acids found in human breast milk are saturated. Saturated fat lowers lipoprotein a (associated with heart disease), carries calcium into the bones, builds healthier brains, and helps your nerves function.
Both saturated fats and coconut oil can increase good HDL cholesterol and have numerous health benefits. So if saturated fats don’t cause heart disease, then we shouldn’t throw out the coconut oil simply because it contains saturated fats.
Is Cholesterol BAD for you?
You might be surprised to learn that cholesterol serves some pretty important functions in the body. It helps the body make hormones, delivers nutrients, synthesizes vitamin D, is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and is essential to the immune system. People label LDL cholesterol “bad” and HDL cholesterol “good” but it really isn’t that simple. If your LDL levels are too low, you could get super sick and 75% of the people who are actually hospitalized for heart attacks have LDL levels well within range.
What this shows us, is that the American Heart Association really has no clue when it comes to the importance of cholesterol and what really causes heart disease. What’s most important is the size and quality of cholesterol and it’s ratio to triglycerides. It’s all about balance and that only comes with a good diet.
Should you stop eating coconut oil?
Never. There are more than 1,500 studies that support coconut oil as one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It contains medium-chain fatty acids like lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid, is easy to digest, improves brain function, is quickly converted to fuel (instead of being stored as fat), promotes weight loss, is anti-inflammatory, and has antifungal and antimicrobial properties – assaulting the lipid coating of bacteria. Aside from the benefits of ingesting coconut oil, it can be used for oil pulling, skincare, teeth, hair, and cooking.
Coconut oil is healthy … and it always has been.
I can’t tell anyone what to do when it comes to the fats they choose to have in their lives, but if you’re still on the fence … look around at the people who consume coconut oil on the daily and those who stick to the highly refined processed oils the American Heart Association endorses. Let’s balance out those poorly done observational studies from the 1960s with some observation of our own.