Coconut oil may not be as healthy as some believe. A recent report from the American Heart Association (AHA) says it may not be very good for you after all.
Studying current information about saturated fat, researchers discovered that coconut oil actually increases LDL, or bad, cholesterol. According to the data, there was no difference between coconut oil and other oils considered high in saturated fat, such as butter and beef fat.
“Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,” the American Heart Association wrote in the advisory titled “Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease,” as cited by USA Today.
Coconut oil has never been healthy, but many people are convinced it is, says report author Frank Sacks. This is likely due to previous studies that suggested a link between the oil and weight loss.
In 2003, Marie-Pierre St-Onge with Cornell University Medical School published research that connected medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) to increased calorie burn in overweight men and women. The study, which compared medium-chain triglycerides to long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), suggested eating more MCTs result in faster metabolism and greater weight loss than consuming a similar amount of LCTs.
Coconut oil has a higher amount of MCTs than other fats or oils, so many have since celebrated it as a weight-loss solution. However, St-Onge’s did not specifically use coconut oil in her study, opting instead for a synthetic oil containing 100 percent MCTs. At most, coconut oil only contains 15 percent MCTs.
A follow-up study done by St-Onge found a small dose of MCT, like the amount found in coconut oil, has no effect on metabolism. Another separate study done earlier this year and published in the European Journal of Nutrition discovered coconut oil did not increase metabolism at all. Interestingly, the study found olive oil was more effective at reducing appetite among overweight women than coconut oil, leading to the conclusion that olive oil may be a more effective weight-loss treatment.
While coconut oil may not be a weight-loss miracle, it still may have some health benefits. As reported by Time, the oil may be a healthier choice when it comes to cooking.
The saturated fats contained in coconut oil make it much more stable for frying foods. Many oils break down and burn when exposed to high heat. When oil burns and smokes, free radicals are released. Research has linked free radicals to the increased risk of cancer and heart disease. Coconut oil can reach a much higher temperature without burning like other oils, such as vegetable oil.
Coconut oil may also be good for the digestive system. While evidence is still up for debate, some scientists think the lauric acid found in coconut oil can control or destroy dangerous bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract.
Even though coconut oil may increase LDL cholesterol per the AHA report, you do not necessarily have to avoid it. The oil is still a good choice for cooking, but eating a spoonful may not get you closer to a healthier lifestyle.
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