Coconut oil – whats the chat?

Tom Blackett   |  05/02/2016

Coconut oil is one of many products that comes with claims of extraordinary health boosting properties.  But is it really that good for you? or is it just ANOTHER disappointing product with a good marketing team.

Lets break this stuff down.

After an initial glimpse at the nutritional info on the back of my cold pressed 100% raw virgin coconut oil (AKA la crem de la crem of coconut oils) alarm bells are already ringing.  93.9g per 100g of coconut oil is saturated fat and it is well known that the overconsumption of saturated fat is easy to do and results in:

  1.  Higher LDL cholesterol levels.. which leads to:
  2. Increased risk of heart attack
  3. Heart/cardiovascular disease

OR does it?

Having spent the last 3 or 4 hours researching saturated fat studies through The National Centre for Biotechnology and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition I really don’t know what to think.  It seems that saturated fat is blamed for heart disease in one study and then has no correlation to it whatsoever in the next.

For example, in this collection of studies nearly 350,000 people were examined over a 5-23 year period.  The aim was to summarize the evidence related to the association of dietary saturated fat with risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and cardiovascular disease (CVD; CHD inclusive of stroke).  The conclusion was that there was no significant evidence that “dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD”.  See for yourself!

So.. instead.. how about we look at peer reviewed studies that focus specifically on coconut oil.  This is where things start to get interesting.   In one study coconut oil was compared with soy oil across 40 women aged 20-40 years old.  The women were split into two groups and both received daily dietary supplements of either 30ml of soy oil or 30ml of coconut oil over a 12 week period.  Both groups were instructed to walk 50 minutes a day and follow the same hypo-caloric diet (a diet in which you eat fewer calories than you burn).  Let me remind you, before I tell you the results, that on paper, soy oil is far better for you than coconut oil as it contains mainly polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat (commonly thought as good fats) whereas coconut oil as previously discussed is made up almost entirely of saturated fat (commonly thought of as bad fat).

WELL.. both groups saw a reduction in BMI, however those in the soy oil bracket also saw an increase in LDL cholesterol (the dangerous one) as well as a decrease in HDL cholesterol (the friendly one), such alterations were not seen in the coconut oil camp and the study therefore concludes that coconut oil does not cause dyslipidemia (fatty blood responsible for cardiovascular disease) and seems to promote a reduction in abdominal obesity.  Furthermore, additional studies have demonstrated that the high content of medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil can help in the process of excess calorie burning and thus promote weight loss.

However.. the findings of this study do not mean that one can now glug coconut oil.  Don’t forget that the women only had 30ml a day.  Coconut oil remains extremely calorific and will promote weight gain if over-consumed, something thats easy to do with saturated fat as it is not satiating and loaded with calories.  The truth is when it comes to fats that there is no black and white answer.  My recommendation is to not be greedy and to try and get a balance of ALL fats.  Taking in 20-30% of your calories from fat would be a pretty good place to start.  AND Do your research, it may add years to your life… and so might coconut oil.