Coco-what?!


By: Nikki Nies nutrition_cocomon_curry

In the last couple of years, there’s been hype around the use of coconut oil over other types of oil, due to its cholesterol lowering effects. There are two major types: virgin and refined.  Virgin coconut oi’s extracted from the fruit of mature coconuts without using high temperatures or chemicals.  Refined coconut oil is created using dried coconut meat that’s often bleached and/or deodorized.

I have to admit, I got sucked into the advertisements that coconut oil is an equivalent to olive oil.  I even bought a ___ container of coconut oil from Costco, that’s how committed I was.

A study let by Kai et al., 2011, looked into the efficacy of virgin coconut oil (VCO) in regards to weight reduction and overall safety of use in 13 female and 7  obese male Malay volunteers.  Weight, associated anthropometric parameters and lipid profile one week before and one week after VCO intake was documented. Organ function tests were used to assess the safety of VCO one week before and after use. The results showed only waist circumference was different from the initial visit, with a 2.86 cm reduction or a 0.97% change in measurement.  There was no change in lipid profile, but there was a small decrease in creatinine and alanine transferase levels. The study found no changes in women’s waist circumference or lipid profile, yet this product was seemed as safe to use on humans.

o-BENEFITS-OF-COCONUT-OIL-facebookUse of coconut oil is in conclusive.  Due to its high saturated fat content and more concrete evidence on the impact of fish oil, it’s recommended to use coconut oil sparingly.  Studies have shown that those using fish oil have a slight increase in their HDL levels, but also have a slight increase in their LDL levels.  There is strong evidence that the use of fish oil has a positive impact on one’s triglycerides, another type of fat that can increase one’s risk for heart disease.

With the limited research on the impact on hypercholesterolemia,Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome,thyroid problems and/or weight loss, if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have bought coconut oil.l  Like other types of tropical oils, such as palm oil and palm kernel oil, coconut oil’s high in saturated fat–specifically myristic acid and lauric acid.  Together, myristic and lauric acid have a greater total cholesterol raising impact than the palmitic acid found in meat and dairy products. Lauric acid decreases the Total:HDL cholesterol ratio due to the increase in HDL cholesterol levels.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s Nutrition Care Manual current recommendations for disorders of lipid metabolism:

  • Limit intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • Consume adequate energy to maintain or achieve appropriate weight.
  • Replace saturated fat with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat (MUFA and PUFA)
  • Increase intake of n-3 fatty acids, fiber (especially soluble fiber), vegetables, and fruits

Since I did buy the coconut oil, I’ll use it sparingly, but I now recognize the difference between the hype and see the lack of scientific evidence to back up the mass market claims of coconut oil. If you do end up using coconut oil, when sauteeing or baking up to 350F,  opt for the virgin coconut oil as it’ll provide items with that “tropical” taste.  As unrefined coconut oil’s tasteless, in up to 425F it can be used in stir frying or high heat sauteeing.

Bottom Line: While high in saturated fat, coconut oil doesn’t contain trans fat, like shortening.  The types of fat in oils is important to consider than the numerical quantity of fat in the diet.

Sources:

1. Cunningham E. Is There Science to Support Claims for Coconut Oil?. Journal Of The American Dietetic Association [serial online]. May 2011;111(5):786. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 23, 2014.

2. Kai Ming L, Yeong Yeh L, Chee Keong C, Rasool A. An Open-Label Pilot Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Virgin Coconut Oil in Reducing Visceral Adiposity. ISRN Pharmacology [serial online]. January 2011;:1-7. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 23, 2014.

3. Q: Does coconut oil improve cholesterol by raising good cholesterol, or should I use fish oil?. Mayo Clinic Health Letter [serial online]. August 2012;30(8):8. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 23, 2014

4.Coconut oil: Supervillain or superfood?. Harvard Heart Letter [serial online]. January 2014;24(5):7. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 5, 2014

5. Lawrence G. Dietary fats and health: Dietary recommendations in the context of scientific evidence. Adv Nutr. 2013;4:294-302.

6 thoughts on “Coco-what?!

  1. I have to disagree with this one. I have been using coconut oil for a yr and my lipid profile after 8 months of using it was much better than it has ever been. HDL of 45–first time ever over 40! The study you mention was 1 week? It takes at least a few months to really change your lipid profile. Coconut oil–medium chain triglycerides– are one of the few dietary sources of ketones that can fuel our brain cells in place of glucose that is the cause of Alzheimers.

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  2. Wow, great to hear coconut oil has worked so well for you! My intention with this article was to clarify that one shouldn’t use coconut oil as their primary source oil. Like many other things, can be great in moderation. I’ve seen the hype that has come with the wave of coconut oil.

    While I was researching the efficacy of coconut oil, there weren’t many studies that were longer than a couple weeks, so there isn’t much evidence on the long term impact. Yes, coconut oil can boost one’s HDL levels, but it also increases LDL levels with it. Coconut oil has about the same impact on lipids as butter.

    Sources:

    1. Coconut oil: Supervillain or superfood?. Harvard Heart Letter [serial online]. January 2014;24(5):7. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 5, 2014.
      2.Lawrence G. Dietary fats and health: Dietary recommendations in the context of scientific evidence. Adv Nutr. 2013;4:294-302.

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  3. Cholesterol is not the real cause of heart disease–omega-6 is! Cholesterol is part of the plaque that clogs the arteries–omega-6 is the cause of the plaque. There are many science articles by Dr Bill Lands on the subject of lipids and many different diseases.

    Here is a link to one of his publications and some references-
    BTW–Coconut oil contains very little omega-6.

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1743-7075-9-46/fulltext.html

    Bill Lands “Measuring blood fatty acids as a surrogate indicator for coronary heart disease risk in population studies.”, World Rev Nutr Diet, vol. 100, 2009

    Bill Lands “Prevent the cause, not just the symptoms.”, Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat., vol. 96, no. 1-4, 2011

    William E M Lands “Dietary fat and health: the evidence and the politics of prevention: careful use of dietary fats can improve life and prevent disease.”, Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci., vol. 1055, 2006

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  4. I have seen the source of that quote–I think it was from the American Heart Association or USDA right? Dr Lands is not the only source of information on the problems caused by omega-6. There are many biochemical based science articles that show how the hormones derived from omega-6 are causing problems. As Dr Lands points out–there are a lot of politics behind keeping omega-6 as a major source of lipids in our diet. Who do you think USDA works for–us or the industrial Ag business? Do you think the pharmaceutical industry does not have any influence on AMA?
    There is a paper by Dr Lands published in 2003 that shows a graph of the correlation between omega-6 levels in tissues of over 3000 people from various cultures and the rate of heart disease in those cultures– the correlation is 0.99, The formula for that line is: CHD (heart deaths per 100,000)= 3 times the omega-6 % + 75. The correlation between cholesterol and heart disease is nowhere near that, in fact over 50% of the people admitted to ER with heart attacks have normal cholesterol.

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  5. Let me come at this from another direction–you know omega-3 is good for you. There are tons of articles showing the benefits of omega-3. The truth is you can’t have both high omega-3 and high omega-6– they are competitive. There is only so much space in our cell membranes–they are made of omega-6 and omega-3. OK, when a cell needs an omega-3 to make one of those beneficial hormones, like an anti-inflammatory prostaglandin, or a clot busting thromboxane–they simply send an enzyme to the cell membrane to clip one of those omega-3 lipids and hand it to the COX enzyme to turn it into a prostaglandin. The only problem is the enzyme that goes to the cell membrane to clip the omega-3 lipid does not descriminate. The probability of getting an inflammatory prostaglandin (those made from omega-6) or a clot promoting thromboxane (made from omega-6) depends on the percentage make up of the cell membrane. The typical American diet give us a 10:1 omega-6:omega-3 ratio in our cells. We need to change that to 1:1.

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