Is Coconut Oil Poison? Absolutely Not.
Did you happen to catch the news?
A Harvard professor declared a certain food as “pure poison.” Intrigued, I dove into the article to learn what surely would be groundbreaking, evidence-based, scientific data, given the credentials of the source.
Speculating on what it could be, I considered manufactured trans-fats often used in processed foods to enhance shelf life, flavor and texture. But you’ve long known that hydrogenated oils are killers. Nothing new to report here!
What about dangerous chemicals like hexane, used to decontaminate ingredients used in foods and some dietary supplements? Perhaps the dangers of synthetic chemicals (not unlike synthetic fats) will finally get the mainstream attention it deserves.
The TRUTH will finally be told, I thought to myself.
To my shock and horror, this “researcher” launched an attack about an ingredient that you probably use every day… a daily dietary staple in some of the healthiest cultures around the world.
It’s an oil so honest and pure, you can literally press it from the fruit in one step.
And I’m not the only one fuming. Angry comments are pouring in from smart, critical thinkers like you who have learned that things are not always what they seem. And it’s not just you, the medical community is fuming, too.
Stay calm, read on.
P.S. After you read this week’s news spotlight, share your opinion on my Facebook page. I am really looking forward to getting your point of view on this topic!
WHEN NEWS IS NOT ONLY MISLEADING…
IT’S DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH
By Naomi Whittel
I believe it’s responsible and necessary for all of us to speak up about the recent media controversy surrounding the health benefits of coconut oil.
For all the individuals who have reclaimed their health… for the global communities for whom coconuts are a cultural dietary staple… and the scientists who conscientiously and responsibly study and report findings without personal bias — it’s time to TALK TRUTH.
Living with optimal health, and the freedom it affords, has been a personal mission for me since I overcame my own health challenge when I was younger. It was my debilitating experience with heavy metal poisoning from ingesting impure herbs that was the pivotal moment behind my commitment to look past headlines and into the nuances behind the ingredients my family and I were ingesting. That an ingredient is considered natural or comes from a plant simply isn’t enough in my experience.
Drawing from personal experience, and with over 20 years in the nutrition and wellness industry, I have learned we must be demanding, vigilant, and aware.
And so, I designed, many years ago, an intensive quality and safety methodology that I apply to analyze the purity, potency, and the identity of an ingredient. It’s a rigorous process that often takes me to remote areas of the world to discover how indigenous ingredients have been grown and harvested and used to nourish and heal its inhabitants for generations; to a university where double-blind placebo controlled independent studies are performed by researchers to determine both short and long-term results.
My methodology has supported me in developing over 140 health and nutrition products I have brought to market in my more than two-decades-long career. After all, developing nutritional products and foods is a huge responsibility, and I take that responsibility very seriously.
To my dismay, a Harvard professor of epidemiology named Dr. Karin Michels offered her opinion about coconut oil, going so far as to call it “pure poison” in a lecture she conducted in German at the University of Freiburg.
Anecdotally, you and I can exchange stories that invalidate the research… I even heard from one reader who quipped about how her entire culture, with its high consumption of coconut products, should perhaps switch to the vegetable oils developed by deep-pocketed companies and protected by lobbyists that often sponsor scientific studies.
After my outrage began to subside, I immediately employed my trusted methodology I have used for years and went to the source to have the science and process analyzed.
In this case, I had my team of experts, doctors, and researchers dive into the information Dr. Michels referenced in her lecture… you’ll find a transcript in English of the lecture where she condemns coconut oil HERE, so that you too have access to the source. I felt it was important to get the lecture translated because — as the saying goes, “things get lost in translation.”
Also, I want you to read what Dr. Michels said directly about coconut oil, and not just the click-bait headlines carefully selected and distributed by the media.
What we discovered was indeed shocking — but not in the way I initially expected…
We could not find any support for her big scientific revelation, and it seems as though her information was also quite outdated.
In fact, Dr. Michel’s statements vilified the saturated fat content in coconut oil, which is also concentrated in butter, beef, and pork, and attempted to connect saturated fat to heart disease and high cholesterol.
Are we back in the 1950s inside the laboratory of Ancel Keys, the physiologist who first launched an attack against saturated fat with his Seven Countries Study — and whose findings have since been declared dubious science?
The reality is that studies connecting saturated fat to a higher incidence of heart disease have been woven into dietary guidelines advocated by the American Heart Association and the Department of Agriculture for decades. According to both of these well-funded groups, natural fats founds in nuts and avocados, or whole fats found in your favorite cut of steak and in the grass-fed butter is bad for your heart.
Suspiciously, margarine made with vegetable oils and generous portions of fat-free carbs are approved!
So, you won’t find anything groundbreaking in Dr. Michel’s statements, certainly not anything to make anyone who pays attention to modern nutritional science swap their coconut oil or energizing MCT oil for overly processed corn oil. What you will find, however, is obsolescence.
Even if you were to indulge the outdated studies, it’s worthy to note the government’s own Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recommended dropping limits on dietary cholesterol, citing “no appreciable relationship between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol or clinical cardiovascular events in general populations,” so cholesterol content should not deter you from consumption of saturated fat. 1
The Anti-fat Crusade is NOT About Coconut Oil
It’s a fact that coconut oil is high in saturated fat. It’s also a fact that for years, policymakers, corporate-funded studies, and unfortunately our government food guidelines have tried to establish a direct connection between saturated fat intake, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
However, research has failed to support this connection and has not shown any link between saturated fat intake and cholesterol or heart disease.
A meta-analysis of 21 studies published in 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that the “consumption of saturated fat had no observable correlation to heart issues.” It included a staggering 347,747 people that were followed for an average of 14 years. That’s a lot of people observed over a lot of years, and yet… no correlation to stroke or heart disease. 2
A meta-analysis is a statistical analysis that combines the results of numerous scientific studies with compatible parameters. A common reason why meta-analysis is done is to contrast results from different studies and identify patterns among study results, sources of disagreement among those results, or other interesting relationships that may come to light in the context of multiple studies.
In yet another notable meta-analysis, the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (“PURE”) study, offered a modern view of what a daily diet should look like, with higher fat-to-carb ratios than the long-standing status quo.
Self-reported dietary data from 135,335 people in 18 countries was collected between January 2003 and March 2013, and grouped according to the amount of carbohydrate, fat, and protein consumed. After tracking participants’ health over a seven-year period, researchers found that those with the highest intake of dietary fat (35% of daily calories) were 23% less likely to have died than those with the lowest intake of fat (10% of daily calories).
Oppositely, for carbohydrates, those with the highest intake (77% of daily calories) were 28% more likely to have died than those with the lowest intake (46% of daily calories). From these findings the authors’ main conclusion is that “high carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality.” 3
The scientific community is speaking out on the matter, and here is what they are saying:
“Coconut oil has been safely used for hundreds of years and has been shown to have a number of health-promoting properties,” says Stephen D. Anton PhD, an Associate Professor at the University of Florida’s Institute on Aging. “Specifically, coconut oil has been shown to increase the ratio of HDL to LDL and lower overall cholesterol count,” he says.
“Coconut oil has been wrongly demonized because of its categorization as a saturated fat,” says Dominic D’Agostino, PhD, a neuroscience, molecular pharmacology, and physiology researcher at the University of South Florida, Tampa. “Coconut oil contains high levels of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) known to have numerous health benefits. MCTs are rapidly metabolized by the liver into ketone bodies that may help restore and renew neurons and nerve function in your brain.” D’Agostino thinks that that replacing carbohydrates with more quality fats like coconut oil will go a long way in improving overall health. “The best studies done to date have demonstrated that higher saturated fat intake was associated with lower risk of total mortality and stroke,” he says.
“Coconut oil, which contains saturated fat may boost the body’s LDL, but it also increases HDL cholesterol which is protective in terms of heart disease,” says Joseph C. Maroon, MD. “Coconut oil may also help to improve neurological health and using it in the context of an intermittent ketogenic diet (high fat and low carb) may benefit weight loss, type 2 diabetes and even memory. It also has a role in the treatment of childhood epilepsy,” Maroon says.
“The research cited about coconut oil in older studies years ago used refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil which is a completely different product than virgin coconut oil,” says Tom Brenna, PhD, a Professor at the University of Texas’s Dell Medical School Department of Pediatrics. “When coconut oil is extracted and purified without heat and harsh chemicals, micronutrients are preserved and the natural fat is not damaged, producing a product that may actually have a positive health impact when used in moderation. In the parts of the world where the coconut and virgin coconut oil are the main source of dietary fat, the incidence of heart disease is lower than other parts of the world,” Brenna says.
Critical Thinking Prevails
It wasn’t long ago when a high carbohydrate, very low-fat diet was recommended as optimal for health. We now know that sugar is one of the greatest contributors to the epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in the United States.
But sadly, the Internet is full of erroneous claims, false extrapolations and sensational headlines that only offer one piece of the puzzle for your consideration. What was once good for you last year is bad for you this year.
The waters are so muddied at this point it’s no wonder we get confused!
Reckless declarations about nutrition and health, like the recent statement made about coconut oil, create confusion and unnecessary stress for those who seek natural ways to support their health and well-being. It’s why I do the work I do and have dedicated my life and career to seeking out the very best researchers, subject-matter experts, and high-quality sources of ingredients.
I will continue on this journey to curate knowledge on nutrition and supplementation, enabling you to make the best wellness decisions for yourselves.
Your wellness warrior,
Sources and References
1. Mozaffarian, D., & Ludwig, D.S. (2015). The 2015 US Dietary Guidelines: Lifting the Ban on Total Dietary Fat. Journal of the American Medical Association, 313(24), 2421-2422.
2. Mensink, R.P., Zock, P.L., Kester, A.D., & Katan, M.B. (2003). Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 77(5), 1146-1155
3. Dehghan M, Mente A, Zhang X, et al, on behalf of the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study investigators. Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. Lancet 2017; published online Aug 29.