9 different people sent me the article that came out last week entitled "Coconut Oil 'as unhealthy as beef fat and butter' According to AHA". After trying not to groan and roll my eyes at fake news, I'm compelled to soothe everyone's worries. If you actually read the article, you should be able to see that it monumentally overgeneralizes the science.
coconut oil is a saturated fat
To make sense of this simply, saturated means it's solid at room temperature. Animal fat is also solid at room temperature. If you've been around for the rhetoric of the last 20-30 years, you know the AHA has it out for animal fat and its role with cholesterol. Panic. The American Heart Association (AHA) essentially made it sound that coconut oil is bad because it raises LDL cholesterol.
And yes, that is true, coconut oil can raise LDL cholesterol. But this frequently labeled "bad" cholesterol is not solely indicative of heart disease risk. Nowhere in the article did it mention that coconut oil can also raise HDL cholesterol, the frequently labeled "good" cholesterol.
Cholesterol in regard to health should be examined by the ratio of LDL, VLDL, HDL, and triglycerides. If you've had your blood drawn, you know that there's a total number and then its components are broken down in the data.
cholesterol + heart disease
Heart disease, the primary concern of the AHA, is caused by inflammation. The link between heart disease and cholesterol is not direct. This is actual science that the integrative medical world is hyper aware of, and thankfully the allopathic medical world is finally getting this.
So let's have a chat about cholesterol's purpose in the body.
Cholesterol is a reparative substance produced by our bodies, it nourishes and defends. Inflammation in your arteries sends a signal for the liver to produce cholesterol in order to repair its trouble. Besides diet, cholesterol numbers and ratios are influenced by factors like stress, environment, or being on hormone replacement therapy.
Ever thought about why breast milk is mostly cholesterol? There's a reason we produce it. Anyway, the bottom line is that LDL cholesterol is not always the enemy.
And on the other hand, HDL cholesterol is also incredibly important to our health. Through a healthy diet and lifestyle, HDL cholesterol levels balance out LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol removes LDL cholesterol from your arteries, bringing it back to the liver to be broken down. The studies the AHA examined were primarily not taking HDL numbers and ratios into account.
Another enormous problem with the AHA's recommendation was their replacement oils of choice. Vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. Fatty acids, like cholesterol, need to be taken into the body in proper ratios.
what to do
The AHA didn't outright say to get rid of all saturated fat in the diet, so let's not go back to the low-fat craze. Take a deep breath, follow how you feel. So here's the bottom line for me, I'll be continuing to include reasonable amounts of unrefined coconut oil in my diet. I use it for cooking because of its high smoke point, unlike cold-pressed olive oil which should be consumed at room temperature.
If you want to eat grass-fed, pasture-raised, and wild-caught animal products that are sources of saturated fat, I think that's a great idea because their omega fatty acid ratios are optimal for your health. They contain fat-soluble vitamins that we simply can't get from vegetables or their synthetic supplementary counterparts. Conventional animal products are the ones that are highly pro-inflammatory, and I'll make a post on that in the near future.
If this unnerved you, take a deep breath and have a look at these cinnamon buns I made last night with coconut oil.