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.
Use 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.
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.