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Category: Nutrition

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Is Coconut Oil Still Healthy? The Truth Behind The Recent Headlines.

You may or may not have seen the American Heart Association’s (AHA) latest report, but I’m sure you’ve probably seen the social media frenzy that followed their statements on coconut oil.

An article by USA Today with the headline “Coconut Oil Isn’t Healthy, It’s Never Been Healthy”, has been shared over a half a million times. The AHA rehashed their age-old dietary guidelines for fats and cholesterol, attempting to finger them both as the cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD). But this time they took it one step further and took a stab at coconut oil, stating:

However, because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD, and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.

So what’s going on here? Is coconut oil suddenly not as good for you as we once thought? Or, is the AHA report based on erroneous science?

If you suspect that there’s more to the story than “coconut oil is bad” and “the American Heart Association is confused”, you’re right.

It’s not that simple. But it’s the AHA that is oversimplifying the situation. And on top of the curious attack on coconut oil, the AHA recommended eating more corn and soy oil, which is downright dangerous and flies in the face of what our most respected nutritional researchers are telling us.

All Cholesterol Is NOT Bad for You 

This report implies that cholesterol is “bad” and, as all of you know, this is erroneous.

It’s important to differentiate between LDL and HDL cholesterols. LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol and HDL is considered “good” cholesterol. But it’s actually oxidized LDL that we should be concerned about. When you’re eating a highly inflammatory diet, causing LDL cholesterol particles to react with free radicals in the body, the oxidized LDL becomes reactive and damages surrounding tissues. In addition, glycation, the binding of LDL or any other protein in the body to sugar, also enhances their oxidation.

More importantly, your HDL and LDL cholesterol ratio is an even better indicator of your overall health (including your CVD risk). In its report, the AHA vastly overlooked HDL cholesterol levels and HDL to LDL ratios.

The AHA even claims at one point that:

changes in HDL cholesterol caused by diet or drug treatment can no longer be directly linked to changes in CVD, and therefore, the LDL cholesterol-raising effect should be considered on its own.

This is the classic and outdated mistake of taking one aspect of health, examining it outside of the context of the entire system (the body), and then trying to make sense of the incomplete data. We know this method is nearsighted. Studies have shown that HDL cholesterol reduces the risk of CVD, so it’s a mystery as to why the AHA would ignore it. Removing HDL from the equation and failing to acknowledge the HDL to LDL ratio paints a partial picture.

Completely ignoring the fact that we know CVD is not caused by fat buildup in the arteries but by inflammation of the body, the AHA continues to point the finger at LDL cholesterol.

The AHA report points out that coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, which is true, but then undermines their statement by claiming that coconut oil has “no known offsetting favorable effects”, which is false. Coconut oil boosts your HDL cholesterol production, which studies have shown helps heart disease patients.

Cholesterol is a fundamental component of every cell membrane in the body, including, most importantly, the membranes of your brain cells. In fact, 25% of your body’s cholesterol is found in your brain. Your body needs cholesterol to support good neurological health. In my book, Grain Brain, I dive deeper into the best diet for optimal brain performance and reducing the risk for illnesses such as dementia, ADHD, anxiety, chronic headaches, depression, and more.

The war on cholesterol is extremely unfortunate because this misinformation is actually making people sick. Not only is cholesterol necessary for a healthy body and mind, but coconut oil nourishes the brain and supports the right kind of cholesterol your body needs.

Saturated Fats Do NOT Cause Cardiovascular Disease 

Somehow, the fundamentally flawed hypothesis, that saturated fat causes cardiovascular disease, became the prevailing belief in the 1950s. This notion has had tremendous staying power even though there are numerous studies indicating that saturated fats do not lead to CVD.

In fact, one 2014 study even urged the AHA to consider the evidence that saturated fats may be beneficial when updating their future guidelines. Seems they missed the memo.

If the culprit behind CVD isn’t saturated fat, what is?

Inflammation is what causes cardiovascular disease.

If you want a healthy heart, you need to focus on a diet that reduces inflammation and oxidation. This means reducing processed foods, sugars, and simple carbs. Also, be sure you’re eating healthy sources of saturated fats like grass-fed butter, grass-fed beef, and, you guessed it, coconut oil.

Coconut oil – as with most healthy fats – does not necessarily need to be restricted.

The AHA report recommends that daily saturated fat intake should be about 6% of your daily caloric consumption, or about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil for men and 1.3 for women. This would be hard to exceed, unless you were on a ketogenic diet.

Though they didn’t completely eliminate saturated fats from their recommendations, the AHA further mislead their audience by recommending polyunsaturated vegetable oils over coconut oil and other saturated fats, and this is unforgivable.

Vegetable Oils Are the Villains 

The AHA took it one step further and made the disturbing recommendation to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats – in the form of vegetable oils such as corn and soy oil.

Excuse me?

We know that inflammation causes CVD. And guess what causes inflammation: vegetable oils. They are loaded with pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

Additionally, vegetable fats are high in linoleic acids. Studies have shown that replacing saturated fats with corn oil increases the risk of coronary heart disease and increases a person’s risk of death by 22 percent.

Vegetable oils should be avoided at all costs. They are inflammatory, high in linoleic acids, contain pesticides and herbicides such as glyphosate, and are unstable under heat causing oxidation in the body.

The AHA’s Report Is Incredibly Misleading

As I see it, a major concern here is that the American Heart Association is in a position of authority and people will undoubtedly follow these recommendations, often to their detriment.

It’s completely irresponsible for an organization which claims “to help people understand the importances of healthy lifestyle choices” to release such a poorly researched and wildly misleading report.

Overall, the American Heart Association has fallen short – yet again – to responsibly educate Americans on what truly constitutes a heart-healthy diet.

Resources:

 

  • Jeff McElroy

    I’m not usually a conspiracy theory type person. I would love to find out of the soybean oil and corn oil lobbies greased some palms over there at the AHA to ensure they continue to recommend these rancid oils over coconut.

    • Jane Jewell

      Exactly what I’m thinking too.
      Money speaks. How disgusting.

    • Jason Prowse

      I think it’s clear and has been for decades that lobbyist for farming, especially Corn have the AHA in their pocket. It’s not hard to see how they came up with a high carbohydrate low fat diet recommendation and now years later are adding Corn oil to the list. HFCS is bound to be next as soon as they can find a way to spin The overwhelming bad press.

    • Carol Gunnerson

      It goes without saying! Big pharma, big Ag, big CAFOs, big chem…. they’re sponsors of all the supposed health organizations. They who give the money dictate the message that the public hears from all of these health orgs. It’s been the food all along that’s at the root of our health problems… and they desperately don’t want you to find that out!

    • Loni Hart

      Jeff -Absolutely correct check this out :Recently an audit discovered by DHHS $729,000,000 *error* on pay outs to doctors.

      How does Cuba beat us to a much better cancer treatment ( Cimavax ) and Japan a drug to slow ALS (Radicut) <- FDA will elevate the price to $150,000 per year !!

      Another group estimated that at least a third of the three trillion dollars spent on health care is waste and or fraud!

      JUST as BAD as FAKE news is OMISSION! Why aren't any, even the so called 'conservative' medias, covering that the US has dramatically fallen to a dismal 42nd in life span globally in part due to play for play agencies like FDA-USDA and AMA, lobbyist and (some)politicians?? The only time, in the last 8 years, that both democrats and republicans in congress have unanimously agreed is when their back-room deal cut them medical insurance for THEIR families OUTSIDE of ObamaCare! TOUCH THE "3rd RAIL" DAMN IT!!
      SOURCES: https://www.cia.gov/library/Publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2102rank.html & Evidence easier access to over prescribing doctors may NOT be a benefit: Young white males in the US lost 10 years on their life span..https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/health/death-rates-rising-for-middle-aged-white-americans-study-finds.html?_r=0 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/111026715e2e91e438c8e3c59544bf786acef075b66165c2ecb6cc4a5d9218bd.jpg

      • canitary

        in all that bla bla , about he health . one hing is missing is PREVENTION

        , in health. care rep. and democrats are the same

    • Cat

      That is exactly what I was thinking! I want to know who funded the studies supporting the AHA press release.

    • Rachel Eades

      I seriously thought the exact same thing.

  • Kazmis

    Your statement “If you want a healthy heart, you need to focus on a diet that reduces inflammation and oxidation. This means reducing processed foods, sugars, and simple carbs.” is almost misleading, misguiding. The real culprit of inflammation is unsaturated fat (Omega 6} which creat inflammation and CVD.

    • Phillis Stein

      I would assert that there are likely many causes of inflammation, industrial seed oils being one such example – life is never that simple I’m afraid and there are MANY causes of inflammation.

  • Joseph Kish

    Thank you!

  • Karen Holt

    Well said.

    • David Perlmutter

      Thank you Karen.

  • Karen Holt
  • Bravo! Thank you for doing this magnificent blog my esteemed colleague!

    • David Perlmutter

      Thanks for reading Kim!

  • Giles

    Thank you! I was hoping you would update this. Out of interest can you test your oxidised LDL level? I have always had higher LDL levels but Calcium test score was 0 and in good health

  • Jane Jewell

    Thank you again Dr Perlmutter, for once again speaking out against this horrendous spoof science put out by the American Heart Association.
    I can only guess that the corn and soy industry has had a hand in this, like the sugar industry did with Ancel Keys. It’s called money.

    I trust that olive oil and avocado oil are also OK? Went to buy some cans of sardines today, only to find, horror of horrors, they were canned with soy oil. Put them back on the shelf and got some canned in water instead!

    • Mary Nelson

      I have read the most olive oils are not pure or virgin so make sure you are getting what you are paying for.

      • Jane Jewell

        Yes, I read that same article too. Can’t remember where. They gave a list of which stores sell extra virgin olive oil that really is olive oil, and which brands junk in with the olive oil.

        • Mary Nelson

          I think one review I saw was from UC Davis (California). As I recall it was something like 69% phony.

          • Jane Jewell
          • RGS

            Jane…that is Readers Digest…Have you looked at other articles of Readers Digest? Mostly fluff? Not necessarily a great source…I looked at the Most Trusted Brands article….would not use them for an information source….

          • Jane Jewell

            Oh, that was just a random one, from a Google search!

        • Phillis Stein

          If you put genuine olive oil into the refrigerator, it solidifies. If it does not solidify, you do not have genuine olive oil. Many of the big Italian brands are affected. One of the good ones is actually an Australian brand (that I buy), which is the Cobram Estate brand. I buy the EVOO, and you’ll notice it is in a dark glass container (another sign of a good brand, particularly when looking at EVOO.

    • David Perlmutter

      I am an advocate for olive oil and avocado oil.

  • Mary Nelson

    Guess what companies greatly assist the budget of the AHA? Might Monsanto be one of them? Glyphosate Omega 6 vegetable oils might just come from them or a related company.

  • Mary Nelson

    P.S. Dr. Hyman has also given his opinion of that report. Thumbs down!

    • David Perlmutter

      Yes, many of my colleagues are fighting back with science!

  • Samuel Lim

    Thanks Dr Perlmuttter for this in-depth article about coconut oil. I am glad you take this stand to clear the Fear that consumers may already have about coconut oil.

    My younger daughter and I are still taking virgin coconut oil ( VCO), for almost 2 years already.
    My blood serum readings are all within limits, no problem.

    AHA are a bunch of Nuts ! It is unbelievable that they published such a misleading and Inaccurate advisory.

    Bless you all people in US and me too 🙂

    From: Samuel Lim
    Singapore

  • Ronna Berezin

    Thanks for your insight and courage! Who bought the AHA’s conscience?

  • Christos

    I am confused as to a blanket statement of Coconut Oil being beneficial for everyone. What if you happen to have the APOe4 gene meaning that the body has a hard time eliminating cholesterol from the body and as I have this gene apparently there is a greater risk of developing AD. Can you please help to clarify this confusion for me Dr Perlmutter?

    • Ottavia Zeffilini

      Christos, since you know of that gene in your body then you shouldn’t eat coconut oil, quite simply.

      • Christos

        Thanks Ottavia however many people who unknowingly might have this particular gene APOe4 and be guzzling on it without realising the harm it could be causing. I would like to have seen this fact mentioned along with the health benefits for those who don’t run this risk.

  • Gela K

    Maddening, simply maddening.

    • David Perlmutter

      Absolutely. Need to push back with science.

  • Thank you once again, Dr. Perlmutter! And for all of us readers of Dr. Perlmutter (and of others giving good advice, such as Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Cate Shanahan, Dr. Mark Hyman, Mark Sisson, etc), perhaps its time to leave informative comments under the AHA article on coconut oil. Mine is “awaiting moderation” but I see other critical comments were actually published, so why not educate the AHA and any of their readers?

    http://news.heart.org/saturated-fats-why-all-the-hubbub-over-coconuts/

    • My comment at the AHA, “awaiting moderation”:

      Cardiovascular disease is NOT caused by saturated fats or cholesterol –it is caused by inflammation and OXIDIZED LDL-cholesterol. Such inflammation and oxidation are caused by sugars and other carbohydrates (that break down into sugars), and by vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, canola, etc. –these vegetable oils are full of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, high in linoleic acids, contain pesticides and herbicides such as glyphosate, and are unstable under heat (causing oxidation in the body). Omega 6 fats are inflammatory and also reduce availability of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats in your tissues, resulting in even MORE inflammation. It is especially disturbing that the American Heart Association seems to be giving their deadly wrong advice in exchange for the money from the purveyors of soybean seeds (for example, from the CropScience division of Bayer Inc., the producers of “LibertyLink” soybean seeds). Honest and science-based advice for heart health would be the opposite of what the AHA is saying. Heart health is found in a diet that reduces inflammation and oxidation. This means reducing processed foods, sugars, and simple carbs. And it means eating healthy sources of saturated fats like grass-fed butter, grass-fed beef, and indeed, coconut oil.

  • Tee Zee

    All American XX Associations are under same supporters as NRA. Watch “What the Health”.

  • Loni Hart
  • Nechamasar

    What about nut oils? Like organic walnut, almond, pistachio, Brazil nuts. Also making milk from the nuts and including that in your weekly consumption of foods? These oils in nut form and milk form should be more advantageous. Comments please. Nechamasara@yahoo

  • Ottavia Zeffilini

    I feel so very sad for people who don’t know of Dr. Perlmutter and Dr. Mercola both of whom are truly concerned about everyones health. Those people think whatever the AHA says is the truth and then they get very sick, go to doctors who don’t have a clue about how food affects the whole body. America is a harmful place to live.

    • David Perlmutter

      Just need to continue to educate and share this information!

  • Kelvin Scoon

    The soya and corn oi lobby are coming after coconut again.

  • Fran

    Everything you wrote about coconut rings true to me. However, I have IBS and find coconut causes me constipation. I am an 87 year old female. I use coconut as medcine when I have diarrhea issues.
    My good fat has to come from throwing an organic beef bone with fat on it into my soup.

  • Daria

    Hi, do you mean oils from avocado, nuts, olive are not good?

    • David Perlmutter

      I am a big fan of olive oil.

      • HoldFast

        What about the other two?

  • Gabrielle Heard

    Thumbs up for Coconut oil in all its applications. I got rid of those rapeseed/canola, vegetable oils, margarines, and have only eaten on a daily basis since January 2015, coconut, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, grass-fed butter,l ard, beef fats in bone broth, and fish oil supplement, I have regained my health, lost weight, autoimmune disorders and depression. Thanks to you Dr Perlmutter and your books.

    • David Perlmutter

      Absolutely! Glad to hear you found a health plan that works for you.

      • Gabrielle Heard

        All down to Grain Brain and Brain Maker 🙂

  • Tessa Hillard

    Such an amazing response!! Thank god for people like you Dr Perlmutter 🙂

    • David Perlmutter

      Thanks for being a member of this community!

  • Rochelle

    Well said! Thank you.

    • David Perlmutter

      Thank you!

  • Barth Jackson

    They know their industry depends on Americans continuing to eat the SAD diet. Too many billions of dollars at stake to risk an end to heart disease. They forgot about Hippocrates. It’s criminal.

  • CleavedHeadsCan’tPlot

    Well the AHA as little as 10 yrs ago, had Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs cereals listed as “heart healthy” food on their website. So I pretty much don’t listen to a damn thing these idiots say.

  • Pilar

    Good afternoon, I am writing from Spain. First of all, thanks for the article.
    I am currently studying Nutrition, and in relation to Alzheimer´s disease, there is one study that has just been published, and that says that the erythrocytes of Alzheimer’s patients have in their membranes more saturated fatty acids. This is the link in pubmed:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28386119
    How can we explain this?
    Thanks a lot for your feedback

    Pilar Dilla

  • Pilar

    Good afternoon, I am writing from Spain. First of all, thanks for the article.
    I am currently studying Nutrition, and in relation to Alzheimer´s disease, there is one study that has just been published, and that says that the erythrocytes of Alzheimer’s patients have in their membranes more saturated fatty acids. This is the link in pubmed:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28386119
    How can we explain this?
    Thanks a lot for your feedback

    Pilar Dilla

  • Tom Ruda

    What about avocado oil? Are peanuts and other nuts pro-inflammatory as well? What about MCT oil?

    • HoldFast

      Good question. Dr. Perlmutter???

  • J. Franklin

    Polynesians (eating a traditional diet) have no heart disease. End of discussion.

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/34/8/1552.short

  • Clark

    A lot of BS. In Spanish, se llamo “Tonterias”. Here in the Philippines we say “Putang Ina”. Black or White? Black can be White and White can be Black. It all depends on the person with a deeper pocket saying it. In Law, there is a saying “Res ipsa loquitor” or translated “Let the thing speak for itself”. CVD is higher in populace with less coconut in the regular daily diet. I rest my case.

  • Alfonso Pérez

    You are such a great man, Dr. Perlmutter, you might be one of the very few Neurologists who is not a coward or a psychopath, and I have talked to a ‘few’. Long story short, a High fat low carb diet, with no grains whatsoever has been one of the key things that have brought me back from an ALS type condition in these 2 – 3 years. I am enjoying now great health and will keep this way of living until I die. I SOAK myself in coconut oil, I drink MCT oil, I drink Coconut Milk, I eat Coconut, I cook always with Coconut oil, hell I even eat coconut oil, do I care about what the AHA says?, not for one bit, what do they know anyway?, it’s not like the US is an example of Cardiovascular health…

  • Joan Fuster

    Dear Dr. Perlmutter, I agree with your comments. But only one additional question: What is your opinion about the consumption of olive oil? It´s also a vegetable oil but I think that is more healthy and advisable than corn or soy oils. Thanks in advance.

    • Joan Fuster

      Sorry but I just checked that my question was yet answered by Dr. Perlmutter. Olive oil is a good recommendation oil.Thanks.

  • Fran Hamilton

    I would love to see what Dr. Perlmutter’s opinion is of the “vie light” intranasal photobiomodulation for helping with dementia

  • Cat

    Thank you so much for publishing this article, Dr. Perlmutter. I wish I could say I am surprised by the demonization of coconut oil and saturated fats, but the amount of collusion that has to go on to present the AHA studies/story and intentionally mislead consumers is disgusting. Your leadership and insights are appreciated more than you can ever know!

    • David Perlmutter

      Need to get a response out there, and share some of the hard science.

  • Burlington

    The AHA got it’s big boost circa 1950 when the “profits” from the comedy-quiz radio program TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES were dedicated to it by P&G (as I remember). By the early 1960’s Dr. Ancel Keys Ph.D. (physiology) was involved with the organization and was either on the eitorial board or editor of their journal CIRCULATION. The AHA still has an annual lecture honoring Dr. Keys. https://professional.heart.org/professional/MembershipCouncils/ScientificCouncils/UCM_480985_Ancel-Keys-Memorial-Lecture.jsp

  • Nancy Small

    If vegetable oils are not recommended, what oils are recommended for cooking? Which ones withstand high heat?

  • Rafael Furlong De la Garza

    Every morning since I read “Grain Brain” and “Feed your Brain” I eat a little spoon of coconut oil and feel healthier than before. Of course I am not eating bread anymore -except in birthday parties- and I’ve lost five kilos already. Thanks Dr. Perlmutter!!! And regarding AHA’s advice, I agree with Mr McElroy, multimillionaire companys’ lobbysts may have to do something with it since coconut oil is the fairly new kid in town taking away some of their clients.

  • Beth A Stansell

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Dr. Perlmutter for bringing the truth and hard evidence to light. Your voice, the evidence based science and looking at the body as a whole is so needed in our US health system to bring correct info to people with chronic disease. Hopefully, your brave, moral, educated voice along with your other amazing colleagues will prevail!

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