It is considered a healthy choice, but coconut oil is found to be an oil high in saturated fat. This type of fat is known to increase cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
For some health food stores and wellness sites, coconut oil is the panacea that helps with everything. We lend many saving virtues to coconut oil on the web: good for the skin, hair, weight loss, immunity, against diabetes, infections. Its followers replace butter and other dietary fats with coconut oil in their daily diet.
The nutritional advantages advanced to forge a healthy image of this oil are its richness in:
- medium chain triglycerides
- lauric acid
- caprylic and capric acids
These terms probably don’t conjure up anything specific to the audience, but it works. This image, carefully designed to encourage its marketing, has just taken a serious blow.
Coconut oil: bad for cholesterol and the heart
Dr. Karin Michels, an epidemiologist researcher at Harvard Medical University recently chipped away at this superfood image at a recent conference titled “Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Mistakes.” This lecture was given at the University of Fribourg, where she also holds an academic position as director of the Institute for Cancer Prevention and Epidemiology.
Dr. Michels based his warning on the high proportion of saturated fat found in coconut oil. Diets high in saturated fat are associated with increased non-HDL cholesterol levels in the blood, and high cholesterol is a risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke.
The prize for atherogenic fatty acids
In addition to the need to limit the consumption of saturated fatty acids in one’s diet, one can also pay close attention to some of them that are particularly bad for health, in particular three fatty acids considered to be particularly atherogenic (which promotes the production of atheroma (or atherosclerosis), plaques of lipids, carbohydrates, blood and calcareous deposits that settle in the arteries): C12, C14 and C16.
However, this is where the problem lies when dissecting the lipid profile of coconut oil. Like palm, palm kernel and other exotic oils, coconut oil is characterized by a high content of saturated fatty acids. More than 85% of its fatty acids are saturated. This is significantly more than most other fatty substances: butter, for example, contains 65% of fatty acids in saturated form.
When it comes to atherogenic fatty acids, coconut oil holds the palm! Nearly 70% of fatty acids are represented by the C12+C14+C16 trio, while butter is below the 40% mark. Coconut oil is not a healthy alternative to vegetable oils high in unsaturated fatty acids, or even butter.
Prefer unsaturated vegetable oils
For now, if you like the taste of coconut oil, it’s good to only use it once in a while. It’s best to limit yourself to small amounts and instead use unsaturated oils as your daily choice. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats like vegetable oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil has been shown to be effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels.