Cracking the coconut oil craze

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

If you Google “coconut oil,” you’ll see a slew of stories touting the alleged health benefits of this solid white fat, which is easy to find in supermarkets these days. But how can something that’s chock-full of saturated fat — a known culprit in raising heart disease risk — be good for you?

Coconut does have some unique qualities that enthusiasts cite to explain its alleged health benefits. But the evidence to support those claims is very thin, says Dr. Qi Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“If you want to lower your risk of heart disease, coconut oil is not a good choice,” he says. It’s true that coconut oil tends to raise beneficial HDL cholesterol more than other fats do, possibly because coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid that the body processes slightly differently than it does other saturated fats.

Coconut oil’s effect on cholesterol

But there’s no evidence that consuming coconut oil can lower the risk of heart disease, according to an article in the April 2016 Nutrition Reviews. The study, titled “Coconut Oil Consumption and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Humans,” reviewed findings from 21 studies, most of which examined the effects of coconut oil or coconut products on cholesterol levels. Eight were clinical trials, in which volunteers consumed different types of fats, including coconut oil, butter, and unsaturated vegetable oils (such as olive, sunflower, safflower, and corn oil) for short periods of time. Compared with the unsaturated oils, coconut oil raised total, HDL, and LDL cholesterol levels, although not as much as butter did.

These findings jibe with results from a study by Dr. Sun and colleagues in the Nov. 23, 2016, issue of The BMJ, which examined the links between different types of saturated fatty acids and heart disease. Compared with other saturated fats (like palmitic acid, which is abundant in butter), lauric acid didn’t appear to raise heart risk quite as much. But that’s likely because American diets typically don’t include very much lauric acid, so it’s harder to detect any effect, Dr. Sun notes.

Tropical diets are different

Coconut oil proponents point to studies of indigenous populations in parts of India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Polynesia, whose diets include copious amounts of coconut. But their traditional diets also include more fish, fruits, and vegetables than typical American diets, so this comparison isn’t valid, says Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Bruce Bistrian, who is chief of clinical nutrition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Some of the coconut oil available in stores is labeled “virgin,” meaning that it’s made by pressing the liquid from coconut meat and then separating out the oil. It tastes and smells of coconut, unlike the refined, bleached, and deodorized coconut oil made from the dried coconut meat used in some processed foods and cosmetics. Virgin coconut oil contains small amounts of antioxidant compounds that may help curb inflammation, a harmful process thought to worsen heart disease. But to date, proof of any possible benefit is limited to small studies in rats and mice, says Dr. Bistrian.

Unsaturated fats

In contrast, there’s a wealth of data showing that diets rich in unsaturated fat, especially olive oil, may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, Dr. Sun points out. The evidence comes not only from many observational studies (like those in the aforementioned BMJ report) but also a landmark clinical trial from Spain, which found that people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet enhanced with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts had a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease than people who followed a low-fat diet.

Of course, there’s no need to completely avoid coconut oil if you like the flavor. Some bakers use coconut oil instead of butter in baked goods, and coconut milk is a key ingredient in Thai cooking and some Indian curry dishes. Just be sure to consider these foods occasional treats, not everyday fare.

Comments:

  1. Ramakrishna

    Coconuts and coconut oil is used extensively in South Indian cuisine and the people are healthy and normal; All this hype on coconut has made the cost of coconut high!

    • Wrong

      Yes, you are right. Coconut Oil just like other oils such butter, olive oil, or even pork fat (excluding trans fat, not a food) as the way humans get fatty acid in their diet. Single one out as miracle or bad egg will cause war, human body itself will complain first.
      Whether Coconut oil has special health benefit than others, of cause it has. Butter also has its own special health benefits, so as olive oil. I believe that if you studied hard enough, port fat will have special health benefit that no other oil has. Food in moderation are all good. Our body needs cholesterol to function, and it makes cholesterol itself anyway. Unless you know the cause of a particular disease, don’t offer suggestions.
      We just hope that researchers are not steering population to the left now and to the right in the future as “low fat diet” or “trans fat” did in the past.

  2. Adrienne

    I cannot believe Harvard would publish such a misguided article! Shame on you!

  3. Gionei

    The number of LDL particles and/or their size might be an additional factor to consider when determining their CVD risk. Dr. Sum assessed this? Meanwhile we have to face the effects of dietary fructose or glucose on triglyceride production!

  4. vin

    I had heart attack when cholesterol was 140 blood sugar 85/130 bp 85 129 age 61 . i was non smoker, no alcohol, no non veg and eating healthy person hugely into pranayam and meditation. i used to climb hill and back for almost 40 minutes daily. confess had tremendous mental stress. nobody could explain my heart attack . i had 100, 80,80,80 blockage. survived because colaterals developed. had bi pass 4 years back. then i read about homocystin and got it checked on my own. was found to be 29.
    i started on b complex with stress on b5 b6 and b12 and tmg and brought it down to 8 to 10.

    today bp 75 80 to 120 125, pulse @70 sugar 80 125 i do hill climbing for 50 to 70 minutes.

    i do not understand why medical profession keeps harping only about cholesterol but gives scant attention to high homocystin and mental stress which in my opinion are real reasons along with other obvious factors.

  5. Rebeca Fiallo

    My memory has improved since I am consuming coconut oil in small amounts and extracting it myself.

  6. PHYLLIS SKILLMAN

    I DON’T BELIEVE THIS ARTICLE EITHER. COCONUT OIL IS MUCH BETTER FOR YOU THAN CORN OIL, CANOLA OIL AND OTHER POOR OILS. I USE COCONUT OIL ALL THE TIME NOW. THEY TOUT MACADAMIA NUT, AVACADO OIL AND DOME OTHERS BUT WHO CAN AFFORD THEM. THEY ARE LIKE $30.00 OR MORE A BOTTLE. THAT IS REDICULIOUS FOR A PERSON ON SOCIAL SECURITY.

  7. Richard

    Interesting that the article mentions the Philippines as a heavy consumer of coconut oil. The rate of diabetes there is twice as high as an already concerning rate in the US. The rate of heart disease is higher and expected age of death for a male today is 65 which is considerably lower than many countries including the US which has a common horrible Western Diet.
    Even the suggestion that olive oil is healthy is disturbing to me knowing there are scientific studies that have isolated the impact of consuming it and proving it is not heart healthy. Studies that claim it is healthy are not valid because they have not isolated the impact of eating more fruits and vegetables or have compared it with another oil that is less healthy. Being more healthy than something is not proving that the first item is healthy…it is just less harmful!

    • Janet Cantley

      Thank you so much for clarifying this issue. There is so much controversary and poorly conducted clinical studies that it is near impossible to believe half of what one reads about cooking oils in general….

    • Carlito

      Philippine staple food is RICE. We eat it three times a day, breakfast, lunch and supper, so much carbohydrates!! It is not the coconut oil that’s causing diabetes.

  8. P R SUBAS CHANDRAN

    A healthy debate…worth to read panoramic views…Coconut, in different form, is a regular feature in most of the Asian countries and study needs cross verification based on tropical…cultural…climactic and finally food attitude. Study needs review

  9. Cheryl Brooking

    Your Coconut oil review has dashed my faith in your publications….Julie you need to hang up your editor badge if you cannot remain consistently credible in your articles.

    I beg you to reconsider your claim to the distinction of that title, at the same time where you consistently refer to Olive oil as a Polyunsaturated oil when it is by far and wide rekniwned for it’s benefits largely as a Monounsaturated oil.

  10. Tori

    Thank you for this article. I will keep my coconut oil consumption to a minimum until there is better data concluding that’s its effects on cholesterol and CV health are benign.

  11. oswald

    Let me say this I have purchased coconut oil in a bottle and jar there is a difference in the label properties and break down of ingredients. Coconut oil as a cooking spray is what you want. NUTRITION FACTS calories 0 calories from fat 0 . % Daily Value* Total Fat 0g, Saturated Fat 0g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0g , Sodium 0g, Total Carbohydrate 0g , Dietary Fiber 0g, Sugar 0g, and Protein 0g. Let me say this the fastest man in the world comes from Jamaica West Indies where I am from. Growing up and still to this day there are a lot of things Americans are not knowleageable to. This is all I am going to say fast runner are a legacy where I am from.

  12. Mark

    I attended an event by the British Dietetic Association two months ago and knew this was coming. About time too. I was becoming disheartened by all the middle class clap trap but the academics are finally fighting back.

  13. Cherie Smith

    You fail to link medium chain triglycerides (found in coconut oil) with the increase in ketones in the body, thus having positive effects in staving off dementia and Alzheimer’s. I find your article to be based on outdated medical information. In fact, it is dangerous in that it discourages use of a VERY healthful oil.

  14. Skeptic

    After hearing that a Harvard scientist was paid $50,000 by the sugar industry in the 1950’s to promote that fats were not good when sugar was in fact the culprit it makes me hesitant to believe what the so called experts are saying right away. I wish there was someone who dispelled the distortions.

  15. Vince Cheok

    Any natural oil (that is not artificially contrived like most ‘vegetable’ oils) like butter, olive oil, lard, coconut oil and palm oil is good as a supplement or cooking agent. Treat sugar like a poison. Eat home cooking. If you can grow your own food, to avoid pesticides, growth hormones, GMO or antibiotics. Eat to live not live to eat. Drink lots of water or tea. Avoid fruit juices or anything cooked to death or puréed. Food must have form and texture and bite and chewiness – fibre and roughage for short for the guts. Take as long to eat as it takes for your wife or Mum to cook it. Eating and conversation and company should be like a communal meditation session about the meaning of life. Be active mentally and physically.

  16. Rafael

    This is a terrible article. If you don’t have enough info on something, then, don’t publish it.
    This sounds like another campaign to discredit one product big pharma has not control over.
    Why don’t we do more research on coconut oil an its effect on people health ?
    Because the US doesn’t grow it.
    Instead, we published incomplete finding about it to put down its usage by the people.

  17. Phillip Nourse

    Has there been any reliable studies showing that heart disease is less in people who eat SFA’S as the only source of energy in contrast to those who have a mixed diet which includes carbohydrates. In other words these people will be in a constant ketotic state.
    Phillip Nourse MD

  18. Nell

    I wish healthcare practitioners would synergize more and argue/warn away less re information and recommendations. This is a new day. People are participating in their nutrition. As commenters ask, what were the protocols and details of this outcome. Not all of us eat like typical Americans. Plus, detail this typical diet which seems to be used to prove the old, conventional line. Many of us aren’t eating that way — whatever it is, since isn’t spelled out here.

  19. Phil Johnson

    Sounds like another big Pharma sponsored hit piece! Every time some study from outside the country claims to be able to reduce a problem in our body without using a high priced chemical touted by our “friends” at Big Pharma and the FDA, we start getting articles like this that try to chip away at the new found knowledge. The only reason is to keep them chemicals coming—big bonuses are dependant upon sales of killer and non-killer chemicals. If you can’t patent it, it can’t possibly work!

  20. Tenfingers

    Mediterranean soil is high in sulfur, it is that which gives the health benefits in the Med diet. The uk soil is short on sulfur, according to Dr Stephanie Sennef and Dr Mercola. ( Go to Dr Mercola Videos)

  21. ilse schmeller

    Read the article that´s mentioned as a source:
    https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2016/12/19/saturated-fat-regardless-of-type-found-linked-with-increased-heart-disease-risk/

  22. Samiulla Bandarkar

    Confusing article.

    • Derek Clontz

      This “report” reads as if it were written by a child. How embarrassing for the reporter and the editors. I used to read Harvard’s health news on occasion and it didn’t bother me all that much. Now that I subscribe to the newsletter, I am deeply offended by the shallow “news”, amateurish “reporting angles” and insistently ridiculous attacks on natural healing. I won’t renew my subscription.

    • Richard

      Any oil is not healthy, consume the whole plant-based product for fat like olives, avocados, nuts and seeds….not confusing to me!

      • Viviane Norcutt

        Richard you are so wrong! You should read more about this topic before write anything online. Actually this ‘studies’ are randomly and inaccurate! I absolutely don’t believe at all.

      • Mike Geraghty

        Right on Richard. Are heated, treated, refined oils like an internal vascular and ventricle glue? Rancid oils are toxic. Simplification is the key. Are we too busy to crack open a walnut? I think they have it wrong about not eating butter and using olive oil instead. Mick the Yank

  23. Gwenn clark

    I use the coconut oil for skin and hair is that good?

    • Yasmin wallani

      Coconut oil is good for hair, I grew up with coconut oil on my hair every morning, I have good thick hair, no split ends, soft and very easy to manage, but I find it a no no no for face, because it stimulate hair growth on your face, and you don’t want that.
      Hope this helps your question.

      • Venu

        I am from a region in South India where coconut oil is traditionally the most favoured and common edible oil consumed by people of all ages. We use it for healthy hair too.

        But there are other oils or herbal preparations in coconut oil that are more suitable for smooth skin. It is always better to choose one that suits your skin type. Most importantly, observe how your hair, skin and general health responds to it.

        Some observations such as it grows hair on the face seems to be unfounded.

  24. Helix

    Cholesterol is no longer an indicator of heart disease…this study seems to be contradicting other studies…

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2016-06-13-study-says-theres-no-link-between-cholesterol-and-heart-disease/

    • Richard

      Studies that say cholesterol levels are not significant are not valid studies….
      You may believe what you like but do not state it as fact unless it is fact.
      It is a fact that people with total cholesterol below 150 and ldl below 100 for decades do not have heart attacks in other than very rare cases. Most studies on cholesterol look at levels of 180 to 250 which is the common level of the US population.
      Valid studies have already clearly demonstrated that most people over the age of 20 consuming a typical Western Diet have heart disease. They can die from something else other than a heart attack but they do have heart disease.
      So study a population of people that have heart disease and tell me that having 180 or 250 does not make a significant difference therefore the level of cholesterol is immaterial.
      Great fake news!
      I am not saying or implying that the cholesterol you consume is significant in your level of cholesterol or heart disease. I am saying that your level of cholesterol is significant and maybe in another 100 years we will know exactly what to eat and how to exercise to have the longest and healthiest life.

      • André

        You are forgetting about the main factor leading to cardiovascular problems: Inflammation. If you manage to control this issue, then you have most of the battle won.

  25. giralua

    The effects of saturated fats are VERY different in an extremely low-carb diet, which the cited studies and meta-studies do not address. I have been on a ketogenic diet for 4 years, and despite my very high intake of saturated fats — including coconut oil, butter and animal fats — my lipid profile has gone from unhealthy to normal, my blood glucose is now under control, I have lost 55 lbs, and early signs of poor kidney function have resolved. I know people who have been eating like this for 15 years with no ill effects. Whenever I see a claim that a low-carb diet is unhealthy, follow-up invariably reveals that the author’s definition of “low-carb” is much higher-carb than mine.

    • Maria

      Thank you for that. I couldn’t agree more. I went low carb and consumed the same diet as you did. For many years we were told that egg yolks were high in saturated fats and not to eat many. A age A eat a lot of eggs and red meat. I lost 40 kgs and raised my Hdl and lowered my Ldl. I was unfit and unhealthy and began to exercise. I am now a 60 year old Personal Trainer. Even my Dr told me to keep doing what I am doing because it is working. Not all eating plans work for everyone, but I swear by my saturated fats.

    • John Smith

      I’d have to agree with you 100% I too switched to a ketogenic diet, lost 80 pounds, lowered my BP dramatically (even though I eat lots of salt), and dramatically lowered my bad cholesterol (SDLDL) and triglycerides. The edema that I had in my legs is now GONE. The chest pains I was having are now GONE. The out of control blood sugar is now GONE. Oh, and I even stopped exercising (which wasn’t doing squat anyways) two weeks into the diet. That was about one and a half years ago….

      The problem that people run into with saturated fats (or most any fats) is that they eat them with a relatively high amount of carbohydrates, and then blame the fats for their dietary disaster. HINT, it’s not the fat, it’s the dammed carbs. And by low carb I mean UNDER 50 grams (per day) of Very low GI (<15) high fiber things like flax, chia, almonds, broccoli, brussel sprouts, turnips, radish, cauliflower, cabbage, etc…

      Crap like "whole wheat" isn't on the menu. Although "whole wheat" is better than refined flour, it's not much better (74 vs 92 carbs per cup). As it will still cause a blood glucose spike in anyone that is pre-diabetic/insulin resistant. Especially when you look at most "whole wheat" breads or cereals sold in the store, which are fortified with HFCS, honey, dextrose, or sugar. Sorry, I have to make my own bread from ground flax seeds, eggs, and EVOO. My "cereal" is made from ground flax, chia, and unsweetened shredded coconut, cinnamon, and a bit of erythritol & stevia for sweetener (0 carbs & natural). These are mostly fiber and good omega 3 ALA fats.

      Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of "bad fats" out there. Usually the ones that the AMA, AHA, & USDA say are suppose to be good for you (like corn oil, canola, soybean oil, margarine, etc). Processed with hexane for maximum extraction, devoid of any nutrients (unlike EV olive oil), and highly inflammatory polyunsaturated omega 6 oils that are even worse for you when you use them to fry things in them. Polyunsaturated oils should NEVER be used at high heat, as that creates carcinogens and aldehydes. Hell, just eat some trans fat Crisco and get it over with already.

      Coconut oil, and other "natural" saturated fats, do not have any of those problems. They're omega 3/6/9 neutral, and they can stand high temperatures without turning into poison like polyunsaturated oils will. Oh, and while some doctors are quick to point out that saturated fats raise your cholesterol, they typically forget to mention that it is your "good HDL cholesterol" that is elevated by eating saturated fats.

      Now, some people do have limited success on a low fat high carb diet. But this is ONLY because eating high carb AND high fat (a Standard American Diet – SAD) is a dietary disaster by comparison.

      Show me a study that says saturated fat causes heart disease, and when you inspect what they actually fed the subjects, you'll find they were also feeding them a ton of carbohydrates along with that fat (basically a SAD). In that light, yea a low fat diet does look good by comparison. A PROPER low carb high fat (ketogenic) diet would look even better, but that's never been tried (because it's against the orthodoxy of the low fat mantra).

  26. Niels

    What about the positive effect of coconut oil on memory.
    Please write about this. Thanks

  27. Amos Johnson

    It is still hard to verify the labels on the bottle that says, “:Extra Virgin Oil. How does one know, it is the Real McCoy?

    • John Smith

      You can tell if the Olive oil is any good by taking a tablespoon full and swallowing it.

      If it really is first press (extra virgin) and hasn’t sat around a long time (not rancid), you should feel a slight burning sensation at the very back of your throat (on your tonsils). The more intense that burning sensation, the more phytosterols are in your olive oil (which means that it is fresh). Real fresh olive oil also tends to have a grassy taste to it when eaten raw and by itself.

      When buying EVOO in the store, avoid anything in a clear bottle (light destroys stuff). Look for dark bottles that block light. A good EVOO will at least have a “best by” date, but better brands have a “harvest date”. Any EVOO over 9 months is starting to get rancid, and anything over 14 months old IS RANCID. You actually want to avoid anything from Italy, as it is typically “mobbed up” (i.e., not real olive oil), and probably rancid to boot.

      Kirkland EVOO at CostCo is said to be pretty good, although I’ve never tried it. The best stuff I’ve ever had is from soaperschoice.com. I almost thought I’d swallowed some cayenne pepper at first, the burn was so intense.

  28. AquaMom

    I do believe that coconut oil could be evaluated as a saturated fat. Do I believe it is a health risk or a bad choice of food, absolutely not. I you ask me to narrow down my conclusions on a unique type of food, I would dive into the place where it originates from and study the people who live on that food as a staple for centuries. And yes, I also refuse to go along with the food trends that pop everyday, simply because I know my body. If I know I have consumed certain type of foods as a child, 100 years down the line it will still cause no harm to my health if I consumed it like wisely, eg. rice. Only the quantity may vary. I hope you get my point.
    Have a blessed day!

    • Richard

      People in the Philippines consume large amounts of coconut oil and coconut. They are among the least healthy people in the world.
      Of course, it could be other factors that determine their health in the areas of diabetes and heart attack which result in an expected lifespan for males 65 years.
      Bottom line is that it will be 100 to 500 years before we know exactly what we should eat because there is no money in that basic research and we do not have a government that focuses on it. The research follows the money which means drugs, agriculture and food processing industries.

      • Benjamin Golub

        What about the studies that claim to show that coconut oil prevents Alzheimer’s? Someone else asked u 2 comment and I second that. If it does how much should a person take every day to get the most benefit?

  29. Justin

    Any information about the use of coconut oil in “oil pulling” – a practice believed to support oral health?

    • Ken Hurry

      I had a tooth abscess that had my gum and jaw swollen and very painful. I used coconut oil to swish backward and forward in my mouth over the tooth for 15 minutes twice per day. After the first day the pain eased and in 3 days the pain and swelling was gone.
      I had it again about a year later where the tooth was extremely sensitive as well as the swelling and pain and did the coconut oil again and in 3 days it was gone.
      3 years later it is fine. People have regenerated broken and cavity prone teeth which I could well believe.
      The Cochrane foundation’s CEO has stated that they have evidence that up to 50% of so-called scientific studies are either fraudulent, incompetent or biased toward the result required by their paid sponsor.

  30. Elle Johnson

    Poorly written article. If cold pressed, virgin coconut oil raises HDL, of course, your total cholesterol count will rise as well. But if your LDL stays the same, the higher HDL is protective.

    Harvard has the resources to run well-designed, double-blind studies to confirm the slant in this article.

  31. L M Kinsey

    Olive oil becomes rancid when heated. Could not be an ethical recommendation. Agreed? The monosaturated compound loses its stabilizing molecule. Therefore should be ingested in heated.
    Coconut oil will never clog arteries as its remains in liquid state in the body. @ 98.6F. Don’t you want any truth out there?
    Whose marketing payroll are you on?

  32. Jim Powell

    2 months after starting on 30 ml of coconut oil per day, my heart rate on the cross trainer dropped by 15 beats per minute and my 1 hr training session reduced by 10 minutes

  33. Andy Leeber

    My bet is : this study was paid for by Big pharma who absolutely does NOT
    want their bottom line affected by something they cannot patent. I am a former Pharmaceutical rep…. they would much prefer to sell their useless
    chemical lab products ….just listen to the commercials!!! “may cause horrible side effects even death, but be sure and ask you doc for an Rx”
    Coconut Oil has been proven to reverse dementia because of the keytone
    effect on brain cells …. go to Awakening from Alzheimers.com/series

    • Hal Davis

      Which pharmaceutical companies are producing olive oil? That is the comparison being made to coconut oil, not medications. I intend to keep using olive oil and not coconut oil! Also, I don’t buy gluten free! Oh woe is me, but I have lived a long time without going organic, gluten free or cooking with coconut oil! Go figure!

    • Richard

      No oil has been proven only of benefit to health and long life.
      Some oils have been shown better than other oils or fats, some diets which include a particular oil have been shown to be better than a horrible diet.
      None of the above proves that a particular oil is good for you.
      Greeks consume the most EVOO but are very unhealthy compared to many other countries. Like in the Mediterranean Diet, the impact of EVOO has not been isolated from the higher levels of fruits and vegetables consumed in that diet. So Greeks are heavy smokers…

    • Maria

      Coconut oil has already been proven to not raise cholesterol. I agree that this research was most likely paid for by big pharma companies. Imagine if the world had a health epidemic…..they would all go broke.

    • Jenny

      Andy, instead of leaping to conclusions … read the referenced study. Nowadays scientific papers typically contain a section on funding and possible conflicts of interest so you don’t have to guess. In this case, the paper says funding for this review was provided by the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand (NHFNZ). The authors have no relevant interests to declare. Their affiliations are given: L. Eyres (the lead author) is with the NZIC Oils and Fats Specialist Group, New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, Auckland, New Zealand. M. Eyres is with ECG Ltd, Point Wells, Auckland, New Zealand. A. Chisholm and R. Brown are with the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

    • Jenny

      Oh — and nothing — absolutely nothing — reverses dementia caused by neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Nothing. The woman who was spreading this scam has been found to have lied about everything, from the status of her husband’s health (he was steadily going downhill for years while she claimed he was doing so well, and died of end-stage Alzheimer’s), to what she was giving him. The latter included an experimental new drug developed at NIH. He was on that until he suffered a severe psychotic break and had to be institutionalized in a psychiatric ward.

      The medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil can help the Alzheimer’s brain function better for a while, but as far as is currently known, they do not reverse the underlying pathology. And the very high concentrations of the four saturated fats discussed in the review paper do a lot of damage to the patient. If you want to try ketone body therapy for a dementia patient, choose a high-quality MCT oil, which does NOT contain these four, unhealthy saturated fats. (And yes, the woman who was spreading this scam was giving her husband very high amounts of MCT oil on top of the coconut oil. If you know anything about research, you’ll realize that any benefits he may have initially had could have been due to the MCT oil, not the coconut oil. She was also giving him more than 20 nutritional supplements that have been investigated for possible use in treating Alzheimer’s.)

  34. L M Kinsey

    Olive oil becomes rancid when heated. Could not be an ethical recommendation. Agreed. The monosaturated loses its stabilizing molecule.
    Cocunut oul will never clog arteries as its remains in liquid state I n the body. @ 98.6F. Don’t you want any truth out there?

  35. Malini Comar

    Is coconut oil good for patients with Parkinson’s disease. If it is, how much should be taken?

    • Sabelo

      I am also interested in knowing about the suggestion that coconut oil helps with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Please advise

      • Jenny

        Sabelo, see my response to Malini. The woman who started touting coconut oil as a “cure” for Alzheimer’s has been found to have lied about everything, from the status of her husband’s health (he was steadily going downhill for years while she claimed he was doing so well, and died of end-stage Alzheimer’s), to what she was giving him. Although she rarely admitted it, in addition to coconut oil, she was also giving him high doses of MCT oil, because she couldn’t get the ketone body concentrations nearly high enough in the blood with coconut oil alone. If I recall correctly, she was giving him 4 teaspoons of MCT oil and 3 teaspoons of coconut oil each, three times a day. This is a massive amount of fat, ~800 calories per day. (Remember that the total recommended daily calorie intake is ~2000 per day for men, ~1800 per day for women.) She also had him in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial for over two years; was also giving him more than 20 nutritional supplements that have been considered for possible use in treating Alzheimer’s; and even had him on an experimental new drug developed at NIH for some eighteen months. She had to take him off everything when he suffered a severe psychotic break and had to be institutionalized in a psychiatric ward.

        There is no reason to believe the coconut oil did anything to contribute to his initial improvement in functioning, since the much higher amounts of caprylic acid in MCT oil swamp out the low levels contributed by the coconut oil. And there is every reason to believe high levels of coconut oil can be very harmful to an Alzheimer’s patient. For example:

        (1) High cholesterol levels have been closely linked to the development of Alzheimer’s and the rate at which it progresses. Many studies have shown that coconut oil raises the cholesterol levels in most people, often dramatically, especially people consuming a Western diet.

        (2) In addition to raising cholesterol levels, saturated fats can exacerbate cardiovascular disease by a number of other mechanisms, all of which could speed the progression of vascular dementia and mixed dementia, and/or trigger the onset of vascular dementia in Alzheimer’s patients.

        (3) Anti-inflammatory agents help prevent Alzheimer’s and slow its progression. Saturated fats have recently been shown to have an adverse effect on some of the body’s natural anti-inflammatory agents.

        (4) Recent studies have unexpectedly shown that saturated fats can affect the immune system. Alzheimer’s patients are very frail and typically have compromised immune systems; doing something that can affect their immune systems in unknown ways might be very risky.

        To my knowledge, MCT oil does not pose any of these risks.

        A caprylic acid formulation has been shown to improve the cognitive function of Alzheimer’s patients in double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. It is sold in the U.S. as a “medical food” under the name “Axona”, and it’s my understanding that many insurance policies will cover it nowadays. It helps improve symptoms in patients who do not have the APOE4 allele, and helps stabilize symptoms in patients who are APOE4-positive. However, there is no evidence of which I’m aware that it will actually reverse or even slow the progression of the underlying Alzheimer’s pathology.

        But as I told Malini — before making ANY decision regarding treatments for a patient with a neurodegenerative disorder, discuss them with the doctor and, if you decide to try one of the ketone body therapy approaches (Axona, MCT oil, ketogenic diet, or calorie restricted diet), do it under the doctor’s supervision.

    • Jenny

      No.

      Dozens upon dozens of well-designed studies have concluded that the four saturated fats discussed in the review summarized in this article are bad for your health, for many different reasons … and many of them were done using virgin coconut oil in humans, since coconut oil is the single richest source of these unhealthy fats.

      Now, the story about coconut oil being a “cure” for Alzheimer’s originated from extensive research done on caprylic acid, a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), for treating Alzheimer’s patients. Coconut oil contains low levels of caprylic acid, and some Alzheimer’s patients (those who do not carry the APOE4 allele) may initially respond well to very high doses of coconut oil. However, while MCTs can help the Alzheimer’s brain function better for a while, as far as is currently known, they do not reverse the underlying pathology. And the very high concentrations of the four saturated fats in coconut oil that are discussed in the review paper do a lot of damage to the patient.

      Caprylic acid was studied for Alzheimer’s because it is strongly ketogenic (produces lots of ketone bodies when digested in the liver), and there is a rather large body of information supporting the concept of using ketone body therapies such as caprylic triglyceride, calorie restricted diets, and ketogenic diets for treating neurological disorders that involve mitochondrial dysfunction, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and epilepsy. Much of this evidence is based on studies done with cells, tissues, and animal models, which means it has to be taken with a very large grain of salt unless and until it is borne out by studies in humans. I haven’t searched the research literature recently for Parkinson’s studies on MCTs, but as far as I know, that hasn’t been tried. However, VanItaille et al. (2005) demonstrated that in humans, able to prepare a “hyperketogenic” diet at home and adhere to it for 28 days, the high level of ketone bodies was related to an improvement in the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale scores. A ketogenic diet is extremely difficult to adhere to (and so is a calorie restriction diet severe enough to raise ketone body levels significantly.) Hence, caprylic triglyceride might be something worth considering.

      VanItallie TB, Nonas C, Di Rocco A, Boyar K, Hyams K, Heymsfield SB. Treatment of Parkinson disease with diet-induced hyperketonemia: a feasibility study. Neurology. 2005;64(4):728–730.

      TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR and if s/he approves, you may want to try MCT oil. MCT oil is 2/3 caprylic acid and 1/3 capric acid (which is also ketogenic, although not nearly as strongly as caprylic.) Ergo, MCT oil has far more of the “good stuff” and none of the “bad stuff” found in coconut oil. There have been many studies on its safety, it’s sold by many health food stores, and it’s used by many athletes.  You would want to be sure to use it under the supervision of a doctor.  Safety studies have been done primarily in young, healthy people.  Although there’s no reason to believe it would be harmful in the elderly and/or infirm, if it has the potential to affect brain function (which is the only reason you’d want to try it, right?), then the effects could be unpredictable.  Better safe than sorry.

      
Look for a high-quality MCT oil from a reputable company — make sure you select one that shows the composition on its label. START SLOWLY, using just a little at first, e.g., a teaspoon. Otherwise, it’s likely to cause stomach cramps and diarrhea. It’s fairly tasteless, and can be mixed with many foods to help minimize gastrointestinal upsets and make it more palatable.

      I gave MCT oil to my husband, who had Alzheimer’s. (I chose MCT Gold from Ultimate Nutrition.) We worked the dose up to 1.5 Tablespoons per day, and my husband, happily, was one of the patients who responded well. Of course, nothing stops the progression of the disease, and he died of end-stage Alzheimer’s…

  36. Amanda

    I would like to see more information in regards to different saturated fat chain lengths, if these studies use refined or virgin coconut oil, who funded the research, were baseline status’s measured along with other nutrient levels? And what confounding factors were considered in the studies? There are many huge key factors that this article missed.

  37. Vítor

    So the problem is not the coconut oil, but the American diet.

  38. Theo Spinner

    Who sponsored the research referred to in this article?

    • Jenny

      Theo, nowadays scientific papers typically contain a section on funding and possible conflicts of interest. In this case, the paper says funding for this review was provided by the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand (NHFNZ). The authors have no relevant interests to declare. Their affiliations are given: L. Eyres (the lead author) is with the NZIC Oils and Fats Specialist Group, New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, Auckland, New Zealand. M. Eyres is with ECG Ltd, Point Wells, Auckland, New Zealand. A. Chisholm and R. Brown are with the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

  39. Solomon

    I dont trust this study. Everyone knows how the truth is manuplated in US. Look at the anti palm oil campaign that US funds to protect its own sun flower oil. If you notice most of these studies are conducted in the US and is bias. Just look at the US cigarette companies. They are still sold despite proven that smoking causes cancer.

  40. Isabel

    Well every time there is a natural healthy fat non saturated cold pressed like olive oil .and you can’t compare between butter and coconut oil.butter are made different but much better than your fake healthy margarine or canola oil or the called low diet fat but full of sugar and toxin.or the alps no d if food that killing generation .what about hams .burgers and French fries that been feted with pig oil.are much healthier than the sacree coconut or olive .not if course but like every time something happen and no matter price can be much better on your health than eating a plate of 40$ that can kill anyone. Whatsapp about cinamon creen thea .no expencive at all.and orgánicos coconut are pure no pepticide or the killing hormone that feed cows and chickens. But it’s the big pharma and others who’s don’t want people to be healthy. Talk about soda o calorie but can be the cause of cancer and heart disease.

  41. Domenica Velasco

    They mention how coconut is not as good as it tjought to be. But then what’s the other option? We can’t cook with ilive oil because that has a low heating point; it is a carcigonetic substance after some degree of heat. I think they should of given us the alternative instead of leabing hanging with no other options to consume.

    • Amanda

      Extra light virgin olive oil has a little bit higher of a smoke point if that helps.

    • Bert

      Avocado oil works well at high temperatures and great for salad dressings too. Try that instead.

    • Richard

      I have been cooking without oil for decades and still alive and kicking… One does not have to look far to read studies showing that frying is not a healthy way to cook and the oil that you are using does not make it healthy.
      There is really something wrong with the education system when so many do not understand that less harmful does not equate to healthy…

      • Paul

        Richard clearly has an axe to grind. He’s posted no less than a dozen times.

        The problem is that any kind of oil combined with the American diet is essentially bad. Remove refined sugars and you will have changed your life.

        I just put my 71-year old mother on this diet and she has lost weight for the first time in decades. She’s stronger, sleeps better, etc… Every time we talk about oils and fats, she points me to a misleading article such as this (hence why I am here). Stop doing us a disservice and change the title to what it should be: “The American diet and 99% of what you buy at the grocery store will kill you.” Or possibly, “Statins will kill you”.

  42. Musaddiq Lakhani

    This study is misleading, I don’t think it is reliable and authentic!

  43. Douglas Gould

    Current literature tends to shed a different light on coconut oil in the diet. The article may be spreading old out of date dogma against fat in your diet.

    • Richard

      Current literature, you mean advertising and popular tales?

      There is no oil proven healthy for you. Cook without oil, put nuts, seeds and avocados on your salads and beans!

  44. Jackie

    I use coconut oil when I get out of the shower everyday and my skin is whole lot smoother and younger looking. I take coconut capsules twice a day and my cholesterol levels have been improving in the last couple of years.

    • YesCoWellness

      Hi, I’m just curious. Are the capsules you are taking 100% coconut or there is something else in the mix?
      I think any oil will help seal the moisture on your skin. Vitamin E, Olive oil, almond…. they are all good.

  45. Colin Stone

    The definition of “inflammation” in this article is so grossly inaccurate that it makes me wonder if the author even knows what inflammation is at all. Just cringe-worthy.

  46. CODY STURM

    I read a article that coconut oil can reverse cavities, and other tooth decay issue by swishing it around in your mouth for 15mins. It’s supposed to have skin, and hair benefits. I’d like to see a study on these as well.

  47. E. Nugroho

    In Indonesia, people of Western Sumatera (Padang) eat the most coconut oil laden food. Prevalence of hypertension is said to be highest compared to other areas of Indonesia.

    • YesCoWellness

      Wow! this is good to know. Thanks for sharing. Coconut oil is delicious, but facts are facts. This is primarily saturated fat. There isn’t much to argue….

  48. Christie Cappelletti

    I dont believe this study

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