Should We Stop Eating Coconut Oil​?

From Dr. Mark Hyman, Author of Eat Fat, Get Thin

Did you know that 50 percent of media headlines about medical studies are dead wrong? And that many of these headlines don’t accurately match the conclusions of the studies they cover? That’s from a review published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It makes me sad and furious at the same time that journalists don’t do their homework and create firestorms of confusion because of their negligent work. First, there is not a single study showing that coconut oil causes heart disease. Not one. Second, the whole case against coconut oil is founded on a hypothesis that has been proven wrong. It’s the diet-heart hypothesis. Saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol causes heart disease. Anything that raises LDL cholesterol is bad. Only problem is that the data does not support this hypothesis.

If you are geeky and want to read more where I cover the science in detail, read my blog “Fat: What I Got Wrong, What I Got Right.” But just like it took 150 years after Copernicus recognized that the earth revolves around the sun before it was finally accepted, it will take a while for the world to catch up with the false idea that low fat and low cholesterol diets won’t save us from heart disease. In fact, low fat diets cause heart disease. I have covered all this in my last book, Eat Fat, Get Thin with hundreds of references. Enjoy!

The USA Today article was based on a review by the American Heart Association (AHA). They published a review of fat and heart disease. The AHA has been at the vanguard of bad advice for decades since they first hooked onto the “fat is bad and will kill you” idea. They told us to eat very low fat, low cholesterol diets and to eat tons of starchy carbs (they get huge funding for cereal makers to put their seal of approval on sugary cereals because they are “fat free” but contain 75 percent sugar).

Except now, the overwhelming amount of research has proved that idea dead wrong. In fact, their recommendations have killed millions of people (no joke) from heart disease and diabetes. That’s why the very conservative 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines removed any upper limits on dietary fat and eliminated any restrictions on dietary cholesterol. In fact, after decades of telling us to avoid eggs and shrimp they said, “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

How could this happen you might wonder? How could the scientists have gotten it so wrong? It all comes down to how we do the research. Most nutrition research is based on what we call observational studies. You follow a group of people for a long time, you ask them once a year what they ate last week and you see if patterns emerged. Good luck if they can remember. Furthermore, people aren’t always honest; if they think butter is bad they will underreport it. The problem is those type of studies do not prove cause and effect, just correlation.

So, is coconut oil healthy?

We have had a coconut craze. What’s the deal? Broccoli is healthy but if that’s all you ate you would get sick. Coconut oil is healthy but only as part of an overall healthy diet not as the main course. Coconut oil has been consumed by populations in the South Pacific for thousands of years without ill effect. It has so many health benefits. You can read more in my article Is Coconut Oil Bad for My Cholesterol, or in my book Eat Fat Get Thin. But here’s the short list of benefits:

  • It raises the good cholesterol, HDL.
  • It improves the quality, size, and type of cholesterol.
  • It lowers the total cholesterol to HDL ratio – a far better predictor of heart disease than LDL.
  • Cultures with 60 percent of their diet as coconut oil have no heart disease.
  • It also contains a unique type of saturated fat called MCT oil that boosts metabolism reverses, insulin resistance, and improves cognitive function.
  • Coconut oil is also anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and it contains lauric acid that is great for immune function. The only other good source of lauric acid is breast milk, which contains 24 percent saturated fat – far higher than the 6 percent the AHA recommends. 

So, I am sorry you have to be buffeted about by bad conclusions from insufficient outdated science and bad journalism. But hopefully reading this helps, and if you are so inclined check out my book and come to your own conclusions.

Want more wellness advice? Check out why we’re going back to the basics, and get inspired by Ballerina Isabella Boylston’s routine. 

The New Potato and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or ailment. All content on The New Potato (even when supplied by a medical professional) is intended for educational and conversational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any new diet, exercise regime, or wellness routine.