Over the past few years, coconut oil has been all the buzz for its many uses, ranging from cooking to skin care. Recently, the American Heart Association (AHA) released a position paper throwing into question whether or not we should be using coconut oil. While there are many arguments to be made for both sides, Coach Kathleen and I have put together the key facts to leave it up to you to decide if coconut oil will continue to be a staple in your home.
How are fats classified?
Fats are categorized off their molecular structure into saturated or unsaturated fats, however, fats aren’t exclusively composed of one type of fatty acid. For example, beef is 56% saturated fat, 40% monounsaturated fat and 4% polyunsaturated fat
Within saturated fats, there are over 35 different types of fatty acids that, in combination, form the animal fats and topical oils we consume.
Where does coconut oil fall?
Coconut oil is comprised of 91% saturated fat, 6% monounsaturated fat and 3% polyunsaturated fat making is classified as a saturated fat.
48% of the saturated fat in coconut oil comes from lauric acid. Lauric acid has been shown to increase high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) in the body. While an increase in HDL levels may be a good thing, an individual can also see an increase in their overall cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, leading to a higher LDL:HDL ratio. Higher LDL:HDL ratios have been found to have a correlation with CVD (cardiovascular disease)
What is recent AHA position paper suggesting?
Reducing saturated fat intake may help reduce the CVD risk for those consuming above a certain amount.
Replacing consumption of saturated fats (such as coconut oil) with unsaturated vegetable oils like olive, canola, and safflower oil will likely reduce CVD risk. The reduced CVD risk comes from the reduced LDL cholesterol seen in response to this altered fat consumption.
Bottom line is that some amount of coconut oil can be consumed in the context of an overall healthy diet, but intentionally ingesting a high intake is ill-advised.