U-turn on ‘superfood’ coconut oil
Commission and Canola Oil Council.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), said to be caused by saturated fats among others, is the leading global cause of death, accounting for 17.3 million deaths per year, in South Africa alone, 210 people die of heart disease a day.
Since 1961, the American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended reduction in dietary saturated fat to reduce the risk of CVD.
The premise of the report is that decreasing saturated fat (often referred to as “bad fat”) was based on “well-established” effects that saturated fats raised low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – which can build up in blood vessels and lead to clots and heart attacks.
The report said coconut oil is 82% saturated fat.
The AHA advised that consumers ditch cooking with coconut oil, in favour of polyunsaturated fats found in plant and animal foods like salmon, nut and seed oils.
“Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD, and has no known offsetting favourable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,” the report noted.
Dr Frank Sacks, researcher at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the advisory said: “Replacing saturated with polyunsaturated has a two-fold effect because a fat that causes heart disease is lowered and a fat that prevents heart disease is increased.”
Dr. Tania Dempsey, an expert in chronic disease, wrote in the Observer, “It has repeatedly been shown in clinical studies that 50% of patients who have died from a sudden heart attack had normal LDL. On top of that, lowering LDL only reduced the risk of a heart attack by 25%. So there must be more to the story.”
She continued, “LDL is by no means ‘bad’, but can be made bad by the composition of your diet.
“The key to understanding LDL is to understand particle sizes. LDL can be big and fluffy or small and sticky. The big/fluffy LDL is less likely to stick to the walls of blood vessels, and the small/sticky LDL is more likely to cause a build-up of plaque.
“We know that carbohydrates – especially when combined with fats – can cause an increase in small/ sticky LDL particles.”
BAD RAP: Coconut oil, once hailed, is now being warned against as raising bad cholesterol.