I was outraged by the recent news headline that Coconut Oil had been declared “Pure Poison” by Harvard Professor Dr. Karin Michels’, so much so that it inspired me to start a blog.
So let’s start with the recent “Pure Poison” headline aimed at coconut oil.
Dr Karin Michels based her warning on her belief that the high proportion of saturated fat in coconut oil is a contributor to the risk of cardiovascular disease. She states that coconut oil contains more than 80% saturated fat, more than twice the amount found in lard, and 60% more than is found in beef dripping.
Now let’s unravel this.
Historical studies on coconut oil being noted to raise LDL cholesterol (AKA bad cholesterol) are slightly misleading, on closer inspection, the coconut oil being used in these studies has been hydrogenated. Hydrogenated coconut oil becomes completely devoid of essential fatty acids (EFAs), diets deficient in EFAs can potentiate the formation of atherosclerosis markers.
EFAs are made up of omega 3 and omega 6 oils.
Omega 3, made up mainly of EPA, DHA and ALA, commonly found in oily fish has many beneficial properties including EPAs anti-inflammatory properties, aiding inflammatory driven conditions such as arthritis and eczema and DHAs cell membrane health, promoting eye and brain health, protecting against depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Deficiencies have been linked to ADHD and also play a role in heart health because DHA can lower blood pressure and increase beneficial HDL cholesterol (AKA good cholesterol).
The Omega 6 group are also vital for brain growth and development. The problem is we eat far too many of them, they’re in virtually everything we eat and hard to avoid. Too much dietary Omega 6 can stop Omega 3 from working and is a major driver of illness and inflammation.
Worryingly, only 150 years ago the ratio of Omega 3 to 6 in our diets was 1:1 – now it’s closer to 1:15 and as high as 1:25 in the US. This is mainly due to the over consumption of processed foods and vegetable oils. This is the major culprit for the inflammatory driven conditions that are so prevalent today including atherosclerosis or high cholesterol.
So getting back to coconut oil, lets talk about its nutritional components. Although as mentioned above, it does contains high amounts of saturated fats, the majority of these fats are made up on medium chain triglycerides (MTCs) of which lauric acid is the most dominant. This is the part that gives the oil its creamy white colour in its stable or solid state. The other MTCs contained in coconut oil are capric acid, caprylic acid and caproic acid, together they make up 68% of the total saturated fat content.
So let’s delve a bit deeper into each of these MCTs…
- Lauric acid is absorbed in the gut directly into the bloodstream without the use of energy and creates a sense of satiety (fullness), it helps to increase HDL in the blood. Once digested, lauric acid can kill harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi.
- Capric acid is easily absorbed during digestion and is quickly used to produce cellular energy aiding weight loss by speeding up the metabolic rate. It has also been hailed for it anti-microbial properties and thereby destroying pathogens, this is one of the reasons why it is a popular choice for oil pulling. Capric acid has also be hailed for its benefits on digestive and bone health.
- Caprylic acid is most well known for it’s health benefits associated its ability to treat the overgrowth of yeast-like fungus that can live and grow in your intestines. It also contains antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and it known as an immune booster.
- Caproic acid most notably in combination with the affore mentioned has been seen to have an anti-carcinogenic effects. It has also long been used for its benefits in aiding the treatment of skin conditions such as athletes’ foot and ringworm.
Because of the shorter chain length of the fatty acids MCTs can be broken down rapidly and absorbed in the body. They travel straight to the liver and can be used as an instant source of energy or turned into ketones which is a substance produced when the liver breaks down large amounts of fat in the presents of less than 50g of carbohydrates. Ketones are chemical messengers that tell your body to burn fat; they’re also a by-product of burning fat. Ketones are anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and they’re a cleaner source of fuel than carbohydrates, which can cause your energy to crash.
Cold-pressed coconut oil contains a small amount of vitamin-E, and other tocopherols, which plays an important role in preventing the oil from turning rancid due to it antioxidant properties.
So you can see that due to its content of MCTs as opposed to unstable polyunsaturated fats found in liquid oils, it actually plays and extremely beneficial role in our body which is proving to have many beneficial results on our health.
I for one am content with my choice in oil and would gladly make it my first choice over the highly hydrogenated and unstable fats such as vegetable oils, palm oil and rapeseed oil. Now you have the information, the informed choice is yours.