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Coconut Oil: An over-rated, and potentially dangerous source of fat


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In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in coconut oil, as a health-promoting food and medicinal supplement. Some of the health benefits of coconut oil, touted by various coconut oil suppliers, include stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, the treatment of candida and pancreatitis, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, improved dental care, and bone strength. Unfortunately, none of these claims have been substantiated by human clinical trails, and in my view, are largely misleading. A bigger concern is the fact that the regular use of coconut oil may actually promote some very deleterious health effects, especially in regard to cardiovascular disease

Coconut Oil and Cardiovascular Diseasecoconut_400

Although there have been no formal coconut oil loading studies in humans that address lipid changes, there is strong indirect evidence that regular use of coconut oil will raise blood cholesterol and increase risk of thrombogenic conditions (e.g. deep vein thrombosis, myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke, transient ischemic attacks, etc). The evidence is based upon documentation showing that lauric acid (C12) is a very strong promoter of raising serum LDL-cholesterol levels (and total cholesterol).  Individuals using coconut oil for their medium chain fatty acid composition often don’t realize that more than 50% of coconut oil consists of the saturated fat, Lauric acid (see chart that follows). Coconut oil also contains other established cholesterol-raising saturated fats, which include myristic acid (18%) and palmitic acid (8%). In total, of all the fatty acids in coconut oil, approximately 75% include saturated fats that are well documented to increase serum levels of total and LDL-cholesterol (lauric, myristic and palmitic acids).

In regards to increasing platelet stickiness and promoting endothelial dysfunction, (two important events in thrombogenic diseases) the evidence from human and animal studies suggest very strongly that palmitic acid and stearic acid are the strongest promoters of thrombogenesis among the fatty acids in the human diet (See reference 1 below). Nearly 12% of all the fatty acids in coconut oil are comprised of these two saturated fats.

The body has no inherent need for saturated fat after age 5

The human body has no requirement for saturated fat. Dr. William Castelli, the medical director of the Framingham Heart Study and Dr. Dean Ornish have provided compelling evidence that, the lower one’s total saturated fat intake (from all sources), the lower the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke, angina etc. Dean Ornish has provided evidence to show that a virtually zero content saturated fat diet, along with moderate exercise and meditation, can reverse atherosclerosis, as demonstrated by angiography studies. I suggest to individuals interested in the influence of fats on cardiovascular disease that they read the books and articles containing the research findings of Drs. Castelli and Ornish.

It may be of interest for the student of saturated fatty acids to know that the liver can synthesize saturated fat (primarily palmitic acid), as well as the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, from carbohydrates consumed in the human diet. After age 5, there is no nutritional need for dietary saturated fat or cholesterol. This is an established scientific fact. Up to age 5, the body requires saturated fat and cholesterol (which it can make upon saturated fat ingestion), in which case I would suggest that coconut oil may be an acceptable and desirable source of saturated fatty acids.

*Fatty acid composition of coconut oil

Common name

Composition

Mean %

Caproic acid

C 6:0

0.44

Caprylic acid

C 8:0

7.05

Capric acid

C 10:0

6.59

Lauric acid

C 12:0

50.63

Myristic acid

C 14:0

18.10

Palmitic acid

C 16:0

8.26

Stearic acid

C 18:0

3.07

Oleic acid

C 18:1

4.65

Linoleic acid

C 18:2

0.8

Other

C 18:3 C 24:1

0.31

 

*http://www.kokonutpacific.com.au/OilSales/OilCoconutoil/Oil_specs.html

Online References for Coconut Oil

  1. S. Renaud. Thrombogenicity and atherogenicity of dietary fatty acids in rat. Atherosclerosis. Oct 2, 1987
  2. Summary of the Scientific Conference on Dietary Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Health (Conference Summary From the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association) Circulation. 2001;103:1034.)

 

 

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