Recently, some companies have used coconut oil as the new superfood ingredient in their products as a selling point. But, how good is coconut oil for us?
Potential health hazards of coconut oil are that 92% of its chemical structure is classified as a saturated fat, even higher than butter, and could thus lead to elevated cholesterol levels.
Most of the health benefits attributed to coconut oil are associated with its high content of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). The primary MCFA in coconut oil is lauric acid which mimics healthy unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and fish oil, by boosting good HDL cholesterol.
Reducing dietary fat has been a goal when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease. However, this is changing and fat can no longer be viewed as the major culprit leading to cardiovascular disease.
Results of a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 showed that there is no significant evidence that dietary saturated fat increases risk of coronary heart disease. The analysis covered 21 studies involving 347,747 people.
A scientific report released in February 2015 by the American government’s influential Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee stated that “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol and that “dietary advice should put the emphasis on optimizing types of dietary fat and not reducing total fat.”
Interestingly, the Committee also reported that low-fat diets, where fats are often substituted by refined carbohydrates, were associated with high elevated cholesterol levels.
The fact is that coconut oil is very energy dense but, unlike other oils, it does not provide any additional vitamins or polyphenol antioxidant compounds like the ones found in olive oil.
The final verdict for now is that there is not enough scientific evidence to promote the use of coconut oil over other oils. Consuming fats in moderation and limiting consumption of saturated fat to 10 percent of total calories is our safest bet while keeping an eye on upcoming research.
Registered Dietitian, Certified Health & Wellness Coach