Coconut Oil is REALLY Good for You

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Coconutoil 1080X675 1 | Coconut Oil Is Really Good For You

The world of health and nutrition wisdom is constantly changing.

One moment, meat causes cancer. The next, we need to eat more bacon.

One moment, we should eat whole grains. The next, it’s all about Keto (high fat).

And one moment coconut oil is the “best choice” for cooking oil—now it is the “worst.”

IS COCONUT OIL & SATURATED FAT REALLY BAD FOR YOU?

According to a recent report released by the American Heart Association:

“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.”

The lead author of the report added that he has no idea why people think coconut oil is healthy—“It’s almost 100% fat.”

Are we really back on the “fat is bad for you” bandwagon?

If you want to save yourself some reading, the long story short is:

No. Coconut Oil is not bad for you.

Instead inflammation in your body is—and that inflammation does not come from coconut oil (but other factors in your diet—like sugar and hydrogenated oils— and poor gut health that cause that inflammation).

NOTHING NEW

The most recent breaking news on coconut oil now being called a “bad fat” is nothing new.

Ever since the late 1960’s and 1970’s, the country and American Heart Association has cautioned Americans to “eat less fat”—Especially saturated fats, like butter, beef fat and palm oil, citing that they raise LDL cholesterol.

In fact, the notion that “fat causes heart disease” started as a rumor, made-up in Congress.

NPR traces Americans’ fear of fat to July 1976, when Senator George McGovern called an urgent hearing to raise attention to the links between diet and disease.  

This hearing was spurred on by an increase in Senate member deaths at the time (8 total during the 1960’s and 70’s).

Sen. McGovern and others tried to explain the outbreak. With few answers, they concluded amongst themselves that Americans “must be eating too much fat,” based on a few early studies scientists had been conducting on the link between saturated fat (like eggs and meat ) and heightened LDL cholesterol. (However, there were still ALOT of things scientists did not understand and not a lot of data). In addition, increased smoking, and the consumption of processed foods and sugar were not addressed.

What we also know about this time?

This was also the SAME time that the sugar industry discovered a link between eating sugar (in processed foods and white foods) to inflammation and disease. (And paid off scientists to blame disease on fat instead).

From these two instances, the idea that “fat causes heart disease” spread—and still remains a phobia today.

WE’RE FIGHTING THE WRONG BATTLE

The crazy thing about this all is that high cholesterol is not necessarily the cause of heart disease—not even remotely close.

Here are few reasons why:

  1. 75% of all heart attack and heart disease victims do not have high cholesterol markers that the American Heart Association scares us about. (Champeau, UCLA Newsroom, 2009)
  2. Cholesterol is VITAL to the human body and the body actually makes it on its own. If you had no cholesterol in your body you would be dead— No cells, bones, muscles, hormones, sex drive or reproductive system, no digestion, brain function or memory, no nerve endings or movement, no full life – nothing without cholesterol.
  3. Moreover, cholesterol in food has no impact on cholesterol in the blood levels. According to scientist, Ancel Keys, the scientist who conducted the famous Minnesota starvation experiment, spent the 1950’s trying to show that cholesterol in food was associated with cholesterol in the blood. His conclusion? Over a decade, he found no correlation between saturated fats and blood cholesterol levels.
  4. “High cholesterol” is relative anyway.
    As recent as 2004, the guidelines for what determines “high cholesterol” changed ironically when the stain drug Lipitor, and an explosion of other “cholesterol lowering medications” hit the market.

That same year, “high cholesterol” levels changed from anything ABOVE 250 total cholesterol being “bad” for you to anything ABOVE 200 total cholesterol being “bad” for you. 

THE REAL CAUSE OF HEART DISEASE

So what causes heart disease then if it’s not “high cholesterol?”

Inflammation.

Higher cholesterol markers can still be a marker of inflammation IF other lifestyle factors and symptoms point to inflammation in the body—not real-food saturated fat consumption (foods humans have been eating for thousands of years without the “heart disease” epidemic”).

Instead, if a patient is  (1.) Eating an inflammatory diet—higher in sugar, low in a variety of healthy fats, grains, conventional meats/dairy, hydrogenated vegetable oils (restaurant foods and processed foods), few vegetables and/or additives, OR (2.) not digesting these foods well (i.e. leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth), higher cholesterol is a bigger risk factor—contextually.

Why?

Because chances are that same patient actually has other signs of inflammation in their body or lifestyle contributing to an overall imbalance in their body.

Aside from cholesterol, other signs of inflammation that contribute to “heart disease” include things like:

High blood pressure, frequent constipation and/or bloating and IBS, skin breakouts, gout, autoimmune conditions, blood sugar imbalances, high or super low body fat.

THE BIG BOTTOM LINE

The American Heart Association does not mention the OVERALL health or lifestyle factors of their study subjects, and chances are the BIGGEST contributor to their findings of “coconut oil leading to inflammatory high cholesterol” is STRESS—The #1 culprit of disease (including heart disease) in the first place.

The unfortunate thing is that much of our medical system and time spent in a doctor’s office allots very little time to explore with the patient what lifestyle factors truly ring true for them—from sugar, to low-fat or grain-based diets, poor fat consumption (vegetable oils in processed and restaurant foods), low veggie intake, and stressful (non-primal) lifestyles we keep (staring at screens, hunched over, stuck in traffic, under-training or over-training, lack of sunshine, lack of human connection).

Were the study subjects from the American Heart Association really living a healthy lifestyle?

The world will never know.

Regardless,  good marker for assessing  what the “optimal” human diet is—and whether or not saturated fats like coconut oil, butter and meat are “really bad” for us—is ask the question:

What did humans eat, and what were their lifestyles like before the epidemic of heart disease spread rampantly across the nation?

Coconut—and coconut oil from those coconuts—were part of many indigenous people’s diets—long before the 1 in 3 Americans who die from heart disease today.

#foodforthought

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