The BS behind “Coconut Oil isn’t Healthy – it never was”
After reading USA Today’s article from the American Heart Association “Coconut Oil isn’t Healthy – it never was”, I had to write a response because it makes me so sad that they would rather pad their wallet then actually provide valuable information to the public. I have a HUGE problem with companies that claim to have your health in mind that choose money in their wallet over your health, especially when they publish bullshit articles like this!
So let's break this down.....
Who is the American Heart Association?
The American Heart Association was created in 1924 by a group of cardiologists. Their purpose was to fight heart disease and stroke by funding research, promoting certain public health policies, and providing education to the public. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, this is clearly important work, but their effectiveness is clouded by politics, wallets padded by sponsors and a questionable interpretation of science or should I say how they attempt to sway the public with incorrectly interpreting data. The biggest problem I have with them is they have repeatedly promoted the replacement of saturated fat with omega-6 (which IS proven to be highly inflammatory) polyunsaturated fats in order to reduce heart disease risk, a recommendation that simply has not been supported by current research.
Now for the real talk..... as we know with any non-profit organization, the AHA needs money. The best place to get money is from corporate sponsors. Some of their corporate sponsors I nclude Subway, Cheerios, and Bayer. Now it's getting good right?! Did you know the AHA will ALLOW companies to PURCHASE a “seal of approval”, known as the Heart Check Program, that can be put on certain food products that meet specific criteria. Some of these products include Honey Nut Cheerios, Orange Juice, and V8 Fusion. The funny part about their "seal of approval" label is that these products endorsed by this program are generally high in refined carbohydrates and contain a lot of sugar. Um - because they PAID to have the label put on their to LIE to their consumers!!! Here's another fun fact, only the companies who can afford to pay the fee for the “Heart Check” label are allowed to use it on their packaging..... Now do you see the power and influence of money on product labels??
Now, let’s talk about the fact that they say coconut oil raises LDL
What’s interesting, is that 50% of people hospitalized because of heart attacks have “normal” cholesterol levels. Over the past several years, it’s been proven that elevated insulin is what puts you at a greater risk of heart disease. Carbohydrates raise your insulin levels, fats do not. Old science only talked about good and bad cholesterol but new science has found that there are two types of LDL – large, fluffy ones and small, dense ones. Only the dense ones are associated with arterial plaque and can increase the risk of heart disease. Next time that you get your blood work done, have them determine your ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol. If the ratio is less than 2, you have predominately large fluffy LDL particles that won’t do you much harm. If the ratio is greater than 4, you have a lot of small dense LDL particles that can elevate the risk of heart disease. A rise in LDL by saturated fat, like coconut oil, does not necessarily mean an increased risk for heart disease.
High LDL May Not be Harmful
The AHA based a lot of their recommendations on the effect saturated fats have on increasing LDL cholesterol. But, they make no differentiation in their article between the size of the particles. It has been shown that large LDL particles do not increase risk of cardiovascular disease, whereas small, dense particles do. Also, it has been repeatedly shown that an increase in saturated fat intake does raise LDL, but only the large, fluffy kind, not the harmful dense LDL (see paragraph above this one for more specifics 😉). Also, when we eat saturated fat, HDL cholesterol levels go up, which is protective to our hearts, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Saturated Fat and Heart Disease
In recent years, there have been 17 meta- analyses and systematic reviews conducted that have not found a clear link between saturated fat intake and heart disease. Of those that reviewed clinical trials on the subject, (instead of just epidemiological studies) not one found any connection between saturated fat intake, heart disease, and mortality. You can see a great summary of several of the studies on this topic here. Oddly enough, the AHA’s “in-depth analysis” only utilized four studies, some from the 1960s, to draw their conclusions. In their paper, they state only these four were “good enough” to be included. One famous study is the Framingham Heart Study.
“In Framingham, Massachusetts, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower people’s serum cholesterol…we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories weighed the least and were the most physically active.” Dr William Castelli 1992 (Director of the Framingham Heart Study).
Regardless of the AHA cherry picking data to support their recommendations, the bottom line is that there’s no strong data connecting saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, demonizing coconut oil (or any other type of saturated fat) as the cause of heart disease is simply not supported by available research.
The Author behind “Coconut Oil Isn’t Healthy”
Here's where things get juicy...... the author of this article is Dr. Frank Sacks. It didn’t take much research to find Dr. Sacks has received multiple payments from pharmaceutical companies. The biggest one being Pfizer, the makers of Lipitor…a cholesterol lowering medication. In 2016, the American Heart Association received over $12,2000,000 from AstraZeneca, an antibiotic company bought by Pfizer. That’s just one of many pharmaceutical companies I found that contribute financially to the AHA. Things that make you go hmmmmm 🤔
Use Vegetable Oil Instead (as the article suggests)
This is the fun part, their suggestion of us using vegetable oil instead of coconut oil. We shouldn’t be surprised since many vegetable oil’s are made from soy bean and corn which is extremely profitable for our government and great job security for the pharmaceutical companies. But in case you were buying into the hype that vegetable oil is healthier for you than coconut oil, here's a brief explanation as to how it is made:
Step 1: Genetically modified ingredients are picked.
Step 2: Heat the ingredients to unnaturally high temperatures so that they oxidize. FYI- Oxidation is lethal to your body.
Step 3: Process with a petroleum solvent to extract the oil from the ingredients.
Step 4: Heat up some more and add some acid to remove any wax solids that formed during the first processing.
Step 5: Treat the oil with more chemicals to improve the color.
Step 6: Deodorize the oil to mask the terrible smell from the chemical processing.
Step 7: Then you can even hydrogenate it so it becomes a solid. Now you have margarine and all its trans-fatty goodness.
So yeah, just a wee bit of processing....
Everyone knows trans fat wreaks MAJOR havoc on our health – but “Coconut Oil isn’t healthy”. Cold pressed coconut is still considered a raw food. Not much processing going on there. More from the farm people and less from the factory! And then to add insult to injury, polyunsaturated vegetable oils are highly unstable and they oxidize easily. These kind of oxidized fats cause inflammation and mutation in cells. It’s linked to all sorts of issues like cancer, endometriosis, PCOS and heart disease (duhhh!)!
Why is the AHA recommending vegetable oil?
Hello, PROFIT! What saddens me the most is that doctors, teachers and organizations, who probably started off with our best interests at heart, have resorted to putting money above all else. It seems like our once trusted health care educators and providers are now being completely seduced and won over by the very rich and persuasive pharmaceutical Don Juan. All I can ask is that you don’t take these sorts of articles and information as iron clad because with just a little bit of research done yourself, you’ll find an ulterior motive…one that probably has lots of dollar signs attached.
A quick fact summary (that is supported with real scientific studies)
Facts number one: HDL cholesterol is increased by eating saturated fat (of course the quality of the fat matters).
Fact number two: HDL over triglyceride is a better indicator of heart health.
Fact number three: coconut oil LOWERS triglycerides and increases HDL. Two things we want.
Fact number four: The American Heart Association promotes the use of vegetable oils.
Fact number five: it is been proven time and time again the vegetable oils are so inflammatory and horrible for your health.
Fact number six: there’s something wrong when someone promotes vegetable oils and says coconut oil is unhealthy…
The Benefits of Coconut Oil
There are several benefits outlined in the research about coconut oil in the diet, which are not mentioned in the AHA paper. Here are a few of the highlights:
– Coconut oil may actually help improve cholesterol and blood lipids
– Coconut oil has been found to help people lose weight and reduce waist circumference.
– Coconut oil has anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.
– Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, helping reduce the risk of heart disease.
The Reason they DON'T want us to consume coconut oil
The truth is coconut oil use is not profitable for THEM. Until they can get control of coconut oil, it will never be. People in the US getting healthy makes them lose money and they don't like that. In fact they hate that and as the popularity of coconut oil has gone up, that's why they felt the need to come out with an article like this. They know when they come out with an article like this MOST Americans will not dive into their article looking at the research or the studies. They will just blindly believe them.
Take the recommendations of the AHA (and any other organization with an agenda funded by big pharma or other corporations) with a grain of salt. I am not a fan of dumping expensive MCT oil in your coffee, but I also don’t think we all need to throw out our coconut oil. I will not be, I love my coconut oil for more than just consumption and there's another blog post on that! Focus on eating real food, including coconut oil, butter and other traditional fats. Please do not avoid healthy fats in favor of margarine, as the AHA recommends.
Real, whole, food foods will ALWAYS be healthy.
To read more about the inflammation in our digestive tract and how to fix it, click here
Additional credit to this post:
Sustainable Dish, Diana Rodgers RD
Healthful Pursuit, Leanne Vogel