The American Heart Association (AHA) recently issued a “Presidential Advisory” which linked saturated fat with heart disease, and encouraged the increased use of vegetable seed oils. The lead author said, “…coconut oil is a fad right now — but it is actually a saturated fat, […]
Author: Robert Stephens
Coconut oil is healthy, … Coconut oil is bad for you. Saturated fat causes heart disease… now it doesn’t? Sigh. It seems like every few days a report comes out that “proves” that saturated fat causes all kinds of diseases. What do studies really prove? […]
Very few scientific studies have been done comparing coconut oil to other types of fats. A few studies found fats from coconut oil to be helpful in reducing LDL oxidation and lipoprotein (a) (Nevin, Rajamohan, 2004). This suggests that coconut oil might actually protect against heart disease!
Coconut Oil – Observational Studies
Why not study people that are actually consuming saturated fat as part of a traditional diet?
In the South Pacific islands, coconuts have been a staple food for many generations. Early records of people living on the Pukapuka and Tokelau islands found them to be consuming the majority of their diet from coconut. People in Tokelau were getting 63% of their calories from coconut, which means nearly 50% of their total calories came from saturated fat! This is over 4 times as much as the maximum allowed by the American Heart Association, and with no heart disease! (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7270479).
Tokelau is an isolated island in the south Pacific Ocean. Early explorers found the inhabitants of this island to be living happy and healthy on diets of coconut, fish, birds, and fruit. With increased travel to the island, the diets of the people became to be more westernized. From the 1960’s to the 1980’s saw the increased importation of refined flour, sugar, and canned foods. During this time, consumption of coconut, fish, and other traditional foods went down.
India – The 1950s to 1990s
In India, food consumption varies by region, but locally produced oils such as mustard, peanut, and coconut have been staples of the diets for generations. In the recent decades, genetically engineered vegetable oils have replaced these artisanally produced foods. These imports has hurt the livelihood of many small food producers. In this same time period, diabetes and heart disease have greatly increased (Sircar and Kansra, 1998).
In Sri Lanka, coconuts have been part of a normal diet. Heart attacks were rare before 1950. Following the westernization of the food supply, coconut consumption decreased from an estimated 132 nuts per year in 1952 to only 1 coconut per year in 1991. Over this same time period, hospital admission rates for heart attacks increased dramatically (Shilhavy and Shilhavy, 2012).
The Sri Lankans did exactly what the AHA recommended: they decreased their saturated fat intake, replacing it with vegetable oil. The result? A dramatic RISE in heart disease.
Perhaps modern, processed foods are the real culprit. Let’s stop listening to so-called experts who are promoters of the food industry, and get back to common sense.
Nevin, K.g., and T. Rajamohan. “Beneficial Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil on Lipid Parameters and in Vitro LDL Oxidation.” Clinical Biochemistry 37.9 (2004): 830-35. Print.
Prior IA, Davidson F, Salmond CE, Czochanska Z. “Cholesterol, coconuts, and diet on Polynesian atolls: a natural experiment: the Pukapuka and Tokelau island studies.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Aug;34(8):1552-61. 1981
Sircar, S., and U. Kansra. “Choice of Cooking Oils–myths and Realities.” Journal of the Indian Medical Association. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 1998. Web. 09 July 2017.