Coconut oil; healthy or not?
ONCE hailed as a “superfood” and known as a dietary and skin darling, now it seems the health benefits of coconut oil have been flipped upside down.
This after the American Heart Association (AHA) released a jawdropping report, warning of the dangers of using the oil as it “raised bad cholesterol” in the same way as other foods high in saturated fats like butter and beef.
The reaction to the report caused a social media frenzy, with some dubbing the raging debate on whether coconut oil was healthy or not, “CoconutGate”.
The controversial “presidential advisory” report has been widely criticised as peddling misinformation and confusion by health experts, as well as being fraught with conflict of interest as some members of the writing panel received grants from giant pharmaceutical companies who produced medications to lower cholesterol.
Locally, dietitian and exercise physiologist at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Gabriel Eksteen, agreed with the AHA recommendation against regular use of the saturated oil.
“The direct effect of coconut oil on heart health and the many other health benefits claimed have not been studied. Coconut oil is predominantly made up of saturated fats and the limited research available confirms that it increases blood LDL cholesterol,” he said.
“Any oil can deteriorate with long storage and when exposed to high temperatures, resulting in an increase in harmful compounds in the oil. Coconut oil is somewhat more stable, but the impact this may have during regular home cooking and storage, and thereby on human health, has not been properly evaluated,” said Eksteen.
AHA had “thoroughly” reviewed the available evidence to reach its conclusion that substituting saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduced LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, he said.
“Our diet should be rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish, and low fat dairy. Red meat, processed meats, added sugars, refined starchy foods and salt should be limited.”
Others don’t quite agree, citing that the AHA’s main conclusions were based on only four trials, with the latest one done in 1971 – making them “ancient” by the standards of nutritional science. The latest panel of researchers was also criticised as it included members whose research was funded by the California Walnut