(Naturalhealth365) In the mid-1990’s, coconut oil was (unjustly) vilified for its high content of saturated fat – and for allegedly contributing to heart disease. However, nearly two decades later, this tropical oil had become the darling of nutritionists, holistic physicians and health enthusiast alike.
But, now in a whiplash-inducing shift, coconut oil is under attack yet again – this time by a Harvard professor who condemns it as “pure poison” and “one of the worst foods you can eat.” (you just can’t make this stuff up.)
In response to this shocking attack, natural health experts, nutritionists and physicians have leaped to the defense of coconut oil. So, let’s take a closer look at what the research on coconut oil actually shows – and the true impact of saturated fat on heart health.
Professor’s rant against coconut oil has gone viral
In a video posted to YouTube on July 10, Professor Karin Michels, of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, delivered a lecture in which she insisted that saturated fats – coconut oil in particular – are artery-clogging threats to health. (Of course, we know there are greater threats to the heart.)
The lecture, which was originally delivered in Germany, has since attracted almost 1.4 million views – and raised a storm of protest from coconut oil’s supporters.
The controversy over the effects of coconut oil was actually re-ignited in June of 2017, when the American Heart Association published a “Presidential Advisory” advising people to avoid coconut oil due to its content of saturated fat. (It’s like the 1990s all over again!)
The American Heart Association (AHA) maintains that coconut oil raises LDL cholesterol – and the risk of heart disease. The organization also claimed that coconut oil has “no known offsetting favorable effects” – a statement that many natural health experts find ludicrous, in light of the oil’s many real benefits.
In addition to attacking coconut oil, the AHA’s advisory recommended lowering intake of all saturated fats – and replacing them with unsaturated fats (such as polyunsaturated fats) in order to lower the incidence of heart disease.
Renowned cardiologist condemns Prof. Michel’s remarks as “unscientific nonsense”
According to the Daily Mail, noted British physician Dr. Aseem Malhotra – a cardiologist at the National Health Service – is demanding that Professor Michels issue a public apology and a retraction on behalf of coconut oil.
Dr. Malhotra, a leading proponent of saturated fats and a foe of refined sugar, condemned Professor Michel’s comments as “unscientific nonsense” – and warned that she is bringing Harvard University “into disrepute.”
In a video he produced for MailOnline, Dr. Malhotra – who is one of the most influential cardiologists in Britain – argues that saturated fat does not necessarily increase the risk of heart attack.
In addition, says Dr. Malhotra, reducing saturated fats in the diet only leads to the use of more carbohydrates (sugar). (Note: many integrative healthcare providers see sugar as a fuel for type 2 diabetes and obesity.)
Have studies shown a link between coconut oil and heart disease?
We’re glad you asked.
Earlier, negative coconut oil studies have been discredited
In the 1950s and 1960s, a series of studies linked saturated fats to increased risk of dementia and cancer – as well as with high levels of LDL cholesterol, traditionally considered harmful. (Coconut oil is composed of 82 percent saturated fat.)
However, later analysis has caused many scientists to dismiss these studies as suspect – and their findings as flawed.
Coconut oil supporters point out that the original studies were conducted using partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which is not as healthy as the chemically-untreated virgin coconut oil used today.
And, when Americans began to replace meat, butter and eggs with (pro-inflammatory) vegetable oils, margarine and processed whole grains, the national incidence of obesity, heart disease and diabetes actually skyrocketed.
More recent studies have helped to redeem saturated fat – and show that it can boost levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol – which helps to prevent heart disease plus many forms of dementia.
And, in a study published in July in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists found that long-term exposure to the saturated fats found in butter, milk and cheese was not significantly associated with total mortality or incidence of heart disease in older adults.
What foods are really behind heart disease?
Well-educated experts maintain that heart disease can be triggered by a variety of factors – including blood vessel inflammation brought on by consumption of artificially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and pro-inflammatory vegetable oils such as corn, soy and canola oils. Refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup and starchy carbohydrates are also culprits.
In addition, non-dietary factors – such as obesity, smoking, stress and lack of exercise – can play a role.
The point is clear: Inactivity, too many toxins in the body and a poor diet (deficient in necessary nutrients) will increase the risk of chronic inflammation and disease. Fake news about how ‘bad’ healthy foods can be for us – just can’t compare to the truth about good nutrition.
Experts note that African tribes who have traditionally eaten a tropical diet high in coconut fat were virtually free of heart disease – until they began eating a more “modern” Western diet laden with wheat, sugar and vegetable oils. Then, they become diabetic, obese and prone to heart disease.
And, if you’re wondering why the AHA is committed to preaching the “dangers” of saturated fats and high cholesterol, remember that the organization receives millions of dollars in donations from pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline – which just so happen to produce cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
Disgracefully, many Californian companies selling coconut oil are currently being sued for daring to make the claim that coconut oil is “healthy.” (The AHA is listed as a “beneficiary of unallocated funds” in one of the lawsuits – no surprise there!)
Read about the lawsuits – and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shameful role in them by clicking this link.
What the media isn’t telling you: How coconut oil protects the heart
Coconut oil, an antioxidant-rich, low-glycemic food that has been used for many centuries in tropical diets, contains lauric and palmitic acids that can increase desirable HDL cholesterol, boost the immune system, spark up metabolism and help to regulate blood sugar.
In addition, coconut oil’s medium-chain triglycerides are easy for the body to break down and use as fuel. Proponents have credited coconut oil with natural ketogenic, or “fat-burning,” properties that help to fight obesity, a factor in heart disease.
Even if coconut oil does increase LDL, there is evidence that the type of large LDL particles that are produced as a result of eating more saturated fats are not (repeat, not) associated with cardiovascular disease. Many experts believe that it is only Very Small Particle LDL, or VSPLDL, that is harmful.
And, guess what has been shown to raise levels of VSPLDL? Eating excessive amounts of sugar and carbohydrates (surprise!)
Fortunately, natural health advocates are speaking out against the latest assault on coconut oil from Prof. Michels. Meanwhile, the AHA – which is ‘in the pocket’ of the pharmaceutical industry – continues to demonize saturated fats while pushing its own pro-inflammatory agenda – while heart disease persists as the number one killer in the United States.
We can only wonder the intent behind all this ‘anti-coconut’ chatter and come to our own conclusions. (I, for one, don’t believe it!)
Sources for this article include: