Coconut oil has become the latest health fad, with claims it can help with everything from weight loss to better skin. However, doctors are sounding the alarm, warning consumers that the oil has been totally mischaracterized as healthy.
The new warning on coconut oil comes from the American Heart Association (AHA), who has just released a new report advising against its use in many instances. There are only a handful of uses that are beneficial. Those are listed below.
In a post on their website, the Dr. Frank Sacks of the AHA warns that the trend of ingesting the oil to maintain good health is a myth.
People are also quick to believe trends that aren’t supported by science, he said. A prime example is coconut oil, widely touted for its health benefits. “I just don’t know” who is pushing it, but it’s not scientists, Sacks said. It may be driven by manufacturers looking to profit, or some countries’ economic dependence on coconut oil, he said.
According to the advisory, coconut oil is 82 percent saturated fat, and studies show it raises LDL “bad” cholesterol as much as butter, beef fat or palm oil. Canola oil, on the other hand, has only 7 percent saturated fat. All fats and oils have varying levels of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
With the AHA’s focus on maintaining heart health, they find the use of the oil counterproductive, and even harmful. It raises the levels of bad cholesterol, the exact opposite of what some reports on the internet claim.
The Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory reviewed existing data on saturated fat, showing coconut oil increased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in seven out of seven controlled trials. Researchers didn’t see a difference between coconut oil and other oils high in saturated fat, like butter, beef fat and palm oil. In fact, 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, according to the data — far beyond butter (63%), beef fat (50%) and pork lard (39%).
“Because (it) 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 the Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory.
Frank Sacks, lead author on the report, said he has no idea why people think coconut oil is healthy. It’s almost 100% fat. Past weight loss studies might be responsible.
“The reason coconut oil is so popular for weight loss is partly due to my research on medium chain triglycerides,” Marie-Pierre St-Onge, associate professor of nutritional medicine at Cornell University Medical School, told TIME in April. “Coconut oil has a higher proportion of medium-chain triglycerides than most other fats or oils, and my research showed eating medium-chain triglycerides may increase the rate of metabolism more than eating long-chain triglycerides.”
The problem is St-Onge’s research used a “designer oil” packed with 100% MCTs. Traditional coconut oil only contains about 13 to 15%. Another study she published showed smaller doses of MCTs doesn’t help with weight loss in overweight adolescents.
While coconut oil is not healthy to eat, there are some proven good uses for it. Coconut oil is an excellent skin moisturizer. It has been known to help skin heal, and even helps some people with skin conditions like eczema. It is also an effective hair conditioner. “You can put it on your body, but don’t put it in your body,” Dr. Sacks said.
Please share this warning with your family and friends on social media!