Coconut Oil does not live up to the healthy hype

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Question: I heard that the American Heart Association just released a Presidential Advisory that stated coconut oil is ‘very high in saturated fats and increases LDL cholesterol.’ What does this mean?
Answer: This news came as a surprise to many people who considered coconut oil to be a healthy option. In a presidential advisory, June 15, 2017, The American Heart Association stated, “Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.”
Coconut oil has become very popular lately and is often promoted as a healthy alternative in magazines and social media. The current interest in eating more “natural foods” has been a big reason for this popularity. Also, there have been some recent studies published that showed some of the individual fatty acids in coconut oil do not seem to increase LDL cholesterol.
What we know is that coconut oil is more than 80 percent saturated fat. Multiple decades of research studies have demonstrated that saturated fats increase the LDL cholesterol. Increased LDL cholesterol is known to be connected with increased risk of heart disease.
All fats are made up of fatty acids. While some of the fatty acids that make up coconut oil do not seem to increase the LDL cholesterol as much as other fatty acids found in the oil, the fact remains that they all occur in the oil — you can’t consume the less harmful ones without the more harmful. Therefore, consuming coconut oil is not advised for the prevention of heart disease.
What are good alternatives for coconut oil? Current evidence continues to support what has been known for decades, polyunsaturated fats – corn oil, sunflower oil or walnuts, flax seeds and fatty fish – should be used in place of saturated fats to achieve heart health benefits. Monounsaturated fats – olive oil, canola oil, avocados – also are beneficial when used in place of saturated fats but they do not provide as much of a reduction in heart disease risk as do polyunsaturated fats.
The science does not support the recommendation for including more coconut oil in the diet due to the fact that it is highly saturated… despite the popular claims.
Vickie Clark is the Director of the Carter County UT Extension Office and also serves as the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent. If you have questions or need any information related to Family and Consumer Science contact her at the UT Extension Carter County, 824 East Elk Ave., Elizabethton, call 542-1818 or email at

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