Is coconut oil good for health?

The fitness world's miraculous food could be worse than butter pork and lard

Is coconut oil good for health?

Coconut oil has been proclaimed a key food to maintain a healthy living and even it is recommended to lose weight. It has been incorporated in salads and smoothies due to its virtue as a "fat-burning". The research of Marie-Pierre St-Onge, on the benefits of the medium chain triglycerides from coconut oil to replace other saturated fats, positioned the coconut oil at the fitness world from the evening to the morning.

According to experts at the American Heart Association, coconut oil is comprised of saturated fats which raise bad cholesterol. The vegetable oil, that has been sold as a "healthy" food and that can be included in a balanced diet, does not have anything good in it, in accordance to the Association.

Through the study Dietary fats and cardiovascular disease, the AHA analyzed 13 types of oils, apart from animal and vegetable fats. The results showed that the fat from coconut oil represents twice the saturated fat than butter pork and that the presence of these lipids increases the risk of suffering a heart attack, cardiovascular accident, or other health problems.

Why could be coconut oil harmful?

Fats are nutrients: they provide energy to the body and are useful for maintaining healthy skin and hair. Fats help absorb vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K and keep the body warm. However, ingested in large quantities, they might be harmful four our bodies.

The fight has always been between animal fats, such as lard, considered harmful to health, versus vegetable products such as olive and sunflower oils. Usually, the last ones are considered more healthy choices. According to the AHA, 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, much more than other fats which were believed to be less healthy like butter pork (63%), fat cow (50%) and lard (39%).

"A recent survey reported that 72% of the American public rated coconut oil as a ‘healthy food’ compared to 37% of the nutritionists”, said the revision of the AHA. Such separation between the people beliefs and the opinion of experts can be attributed to the marketing of the coconut oil in popular press.

Dr. Miguel Angel Martínez Olmos, specialist in Endocrinology and Nutrition of the University Hospital Complex of Santiago, says regard to the study that if we have in mind that what most makes us raise cholesterol levels are saturated fats, we can see with ease the relationship between coconut oil and cardiovascular risk.

According to the latest revision of the AHA, studies have shown that coconut oil increases cholesterol in the blood, although that does not mean that it directly increases the risk of heart disease. However, the indirect link between the "bad" cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases still exists, so the review recommends that people avoid eating coconut oil. "Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of cardiovascular disease, and no friendly affection or importance is not known, we advise you not to eat coconut oil", the AHA recommends.

The lead author of the study Frank Sacks said: "You can put on your body, but not in your body." Recognizing as well that the substance is good to moisturize the skin and hair.

However, according to a recent study led by the BBC with the help of Prof Kay-Tee Khaw and Prof Nita Forouhi, both eminent Cambridge academics, not only showed that there was no rise in LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in the volunteers that consumed this fat for four weeks every single day, but there was a particularly large rise in HDL, the "good" cholesterol, up by 15%. "On the face of it that would suggest that the people consuming the coconut oil had actually reduced their risk of developing heart disease or stroke" said the BBC.

Thus, claiming coconut oil is a superfood is kind of premature. However, if you enjoy putting in it in your foods, there are not enough studies to prove you should stop.

LatinAmerican Post | Diana Ramos
Copy edited by Marcela Peñaloza


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