Coconut Oil Isn’t The Miracle Cure You Thought It Was

Why you gotta be like this, scientific research?

Why you gotta be like this, scientific research?

But it's not all bad news; everyone's favorite fat still has many uses.

You might want to sit down, coconut oil converts. We have some bad news. Your favorite, magical health food is officially bad for you. But don’t stress: You don’t have to chuck it quite yet. Just maybe refrain from eating it like ice-cream. That would be bad.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has just released a study from group of doctors, which more or less rains on the West’s current parading of coconut oil as miracle cure for healthy hair, skin, digestion, immunity and pretty else anything else you can think of. 

Being 82 percent saturated fat, the study published in the AHA’s Circulation journal shows that coconut oil raised “bad” cholesterol levels just as much as beef fat, pork lard, palm oil and butter. In fact, it has significantly more saturated fat than those products.

Known as low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, “bad cholesterol” is the main cause of atherosclerosis, which is the hardening and clogging of arteries that leads to heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases. "Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol ... and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil," the AHA said in its advisory, instead recommending people replace saturated fat with unsaturated oils, nuts, beans, whole wheat bread and vegetables. 

But fear not, coconut lovers. Aside from the fact that no-one ever has suggested coconut oil didn’t contain high amounts of saturated fat, it’s still the best moisturizer and hair mask Mother Nature has blessed us with. 

And as functional medicine practitioner Dr. Will Cole told Mind Body Green, it’s important people look at the whole picture—rather than obsessing over one ingredient—when it comes to their health. "The problem with saturated fats like coconut oil occurs when people eat them with refined grains (which turn into sugar) such as breads and pasta or sugary foods," he says.

"This 'mixed meal' combination amplifies the inflammatory effects of sugar … If you're not going to eat vegetables and avoid carby junk foods, I suggest limiting your saturated fat intake—coconut oil included."

So for all its supposed “healthy qualities,” like medium-chain triglycerides and lauric acid, it’s probably safer to keep coconut oil in the beauty cabinet and out of the kitchen. Unless you’re already ridiculously healthy and know exactly how coconut oil might be effecting your body. 

As Cole put it, "We are all different. Seeing thousands of patients over the years, I certainly can't deny the fact that some people do better with less saturated fats and some thrive with more. It's about what works for you."

Words: Jerico Mandybur
Photo: Vera Lair