Just a few years ago, the use of coconut oil came into the forefront of healthy cooking. But it turns out; it should never have been in that category, to begin with. Now, the American Heart Association is asking you to put down coconut oil in favor of healthier choices.
The Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory took another look at some of the data on saturated fat in general and found that coconut oil increased LDL cholesterol, also known as the bad cholesterol, in all of their trials. Researchers found no difference between coconut oil and other oils like butter, beef fat and palm oil. They were all high in saturated fat. In fact, coconut oil contained the most saturated fat, more than butter and pork lard. The lead author of the latest report says that coconut oil, is in fact, almost 100% fat.
“Because coconut oil 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 now says.
The AHA recommends that people who are trying to lower their cholesterol eat no more than 6% of saturated fat as part of their total daily intake of calories.
So how did coconut oil get put in the health food category, to begin with? Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, has a pretty good idea.
“The reason coconut oil is so popular for weight loss is partly due to my research on medium chain triglycerides,” St-Onge 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.”
However, St-Onge’s study used a higher quality coconut oil than average consumers have access to. The oil in that study had 100% MCTs, while most coconut oil contains about 13 to 15% MCTs.
It is important to know that cutting saturated fat may not lower all of your heart attack risk. Make sure you’re not filling up on empty calories and practice a heart healthy lifestyle with overall diet and exercise. Just cutting out saturated fat will not protect against heart disease, but it may not be a bad idea to reach for the olive oil or even butter, instead of the coconut oil.
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