Coconut Oil… So, Now It’s Bad?!?!?
By Serene Allison & Pearl Barrett
We all just got told to steer clear of coconut oil! This was the advice in a recent report by the American Heart Association. Did you notice the media had an absolute hay day with headlines? “Coconut oil is bad and has always been bad,” was the sensational click bait of the day. We had to respond to this smear campaign.
Actually we’re not too surprised, this is merely history repeating itself. About thirty years ago a brutal and long standing attack against coconut oil was waged as the soybean oil industry wrestled for domination. This battle had its own name… “The War of Oils.” Coconut oil was labeled “the oil from hell.” Newspapers and TV headlines slammed it repeatedly and warned it would lead to heart attack and early death. It was described by health gurus as one of the most evil and dangerous foods you could consume. Now here we are watching it all happen again in living color. So take a seat and hold on for the ride.
(Sorry in advance for the length of this post but we have to be thorough and we already shortened this by a long shot so you don’t nod off. Be thankful for that and read to the end… wink (okay… save and read for later then).
First it is important to realize that this update by the American Heart Association did not come because of any new alarming data on coconut oil, they simply reviewed the existing data, and once again reiterated their claim that saturated fats are “bad.” Coconut oil is highly saturated, even more so than butter and beef fat so it must be the “baddest of the bad.” … well that is what the media got from the report anyway. The lead author on the report said he has no idea why people think coconut oil is healthy. “It’s almost 100% fat.” he stated.
We think that statement should give you a fair clue as to where this mindset is coming from. The “fat is bad” mantra is surprisingly still entrenched in the medical community and despite tens of thousands of studies on the importance and benefits of fats (1500 studies on positive benefits of coconut oil alone… “no idea”… really?) this dogma continues to be pushed down our throats as though it is fact. Essentially the American Heart Association is just buckling down and sticking to their guns… if we consume fats they should be limited and only be in the unsaturated form, their darling still being canola oil.
It has never been the Trim Healthy Mama way to attack other diets or health associations. We THM-ers keep our heads down and simply encourage our way of eating then let the positive results speak for themselves. But in light of this new media campaign to unfairly smear coconut oil, we think it is time to shed some light on what is really going on here.
This whole anti-saturated fat movement started being widely promoted in the seventies and eighties. That is when we were told insane stuff such as butter equals bad and margarine equals good. Since that time saturated fat intakes have dropped substantially yet bellies have gotten bigger and health has declined… kind of makes you go… hmmm. Now thankfully, most people have come to realize that margarine is far from good, it is actually toxic to the human body so most health advisers have given up promoting it. Strangely though, the promotion of canola oil (and other vegetable oils such as soybean and corn oil) by the American Heart Association continues in full strength. Why do they keep forcing this doctrine? Why is canola oil still their golden child when it has clearly shown to have serious health implications?
Okay… part of the “why’s” are obvious if you buy into their fat theories. Coconut oil is 82 percent saturated fat compared to canola oil which is just seven per cent saturated fat. They also cite certain studies as to why canola oil is heart healthy, but if there is one thing we have learned through our years of trying to find any sort of common sense in the diet industry, people find studies to back up anything they want to say. We hate to even come to this awful conclusion… but could another darker reason possibly be due in part to the fact that the Canola oil industry has been an ongoing financial donor to the AHA and actually funded their massive “Face the Fats” campaign? No… we are not making this stuff up, the following is a quote directly from the canola oil industry itself, very happy with themselves at the rising demand for their product due to partnering with the AHA… “Alignment with heart-health was reinforced through sponsorship of the American Heart Association’s Face the Fats PSA campaign, which generated 237 million impressions.”
Let’s be very clear… the studies the American Heart Association cite for last week’s announcement don’t link eating more coconut oil to heart disease. One study cited did link it to a rise in LDL cholesterol in rats. However if you dig further into the research on coconut oil and cholesterol it actually shows that it raises HDL cholesterol (considered “good”) more than LDL, and that ratio is considered a better heart health marker. There are multiple studies that reveal this including a study published in the June 2011 issue of “Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition” on humans, not rats. The researchers concluded coconut oil consumption is associated with higher HDL or “good” cholesterol, but neither raises nor lowers LDL cholesterol. Additional research published in “Clinical Biochemistry” in September 2004 suggests that coconut oil may protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, reducing its tendency to accumulate on artery walls.
CHOLESTEROL BLAME GAME
And let’s also be very clear about this… LDL cholesterol as a “heart health baddie” really is an old fashioned view of it. For argument’s sake, let’s say their rat study does somehow cross over to humans and someone finds themselves with slightly higher LDL levels after heartily digging into coconut oil. Cutting edge heart doctors now realize it is far less about amounts of LDL as it is about particle size of cholesterol. Your body needs cholesterol for almost every bodily process. A large percentage of your brain is actually made from cholesterol. But size matters. Small dense cholesterol particles can squeeze between the cells of your arteries and get stuck. Once they’re stuck they become “plaque”, they oxidize, turn rancid and cause inflammation.
So, you don’t want small LDL molecules, you want larger, fluffier, healthier ones… well guess what? Research (including a study cited in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(5), 828-836 demonstrates that eating saturated fats increase the size of your small LDL molecules and thus reduces your overall risk of a cardiac event. It is a diet high in refined sugars and starches that contributes to smaller, more dangerous cholesterol particle size and raises triglycerides (a marker that measures circulating fat in your bloodstream).
More and more doctors (who are willing to be open minded and not entrenched in old fashioned dogma) are now realizing inflammation markers in the body are much more indicative of heart attack risk than mere cholesterol levels. A recent study published in Ind J Clin Biochem supports this concept. Blood samples were drawn from 100 people who had a heart attack. Blood samples were also drawn from 100 people who had not had a heart attack. Each sample was tested for levels of LDL cholesterol as well as a marker for inflammation known as HS-CRP. The results showed that there was no significant difference in LDL levels between the heart attack group and the non-heart attack group. They were about the same. There was however a significant difference in HS-CRP levels. Those who had a heart attack had about six times higher levels of this inflammation marker than those who did not.
How do we decrease inflammation in the body? As a Trim Healthy Mama, you know that beating the sugar monster does a fabulous job of this. Making out that coconut oil is the heart risk meanie… that it is basically a heart attack in a jar waiting to happen doesn’t make any sense at all in light of recent knowledge about inflammation. Coconut oil is an undisputed inflammation fighter for Pete’s sake!
Coconut oil comes from coconuts, plain and simple. Why are we saying something so obvious and ridiculous when of course you know that? Well, in contrast, let’s look at the chief oil that the American heart association promotes. Canola oil is a made up name. Canola oil doesn’t come from a God created seed or nut. There is no such thing found in nature. Canola oil comes from the hybridization of the rape seed. The rape seed is a plant seed which is why it’s monounsaturated (the AHA very much likes monounsaturated oils) but it had to be modified as it is high in a toxin called erucic acid which is lethal to the human heart. Not fit for consumption but great for oiling machines.
In the late 1970’s, when The War of Oils began and saturated fats started to be shunned, monounsaturated fats like olive oil began to be touted as healthier oils. A problem developed. There was not enough olive oil for world demand, not to mention that it was too expensive for producing cheap processed foods. Until that time most packaged foods were using palm or coconut oils but the new mantra “saturated fats are bad” was now in full force. The food industry needed a new cheap oil. Soybean oil did succeed in replacing much of the coconut and palm oils in processed foods but it didn’t seem quite “heart healthy” enough to push as an olive oil alternative for home use.
Researchers came to the rescue by engineering a new plant from the rapeseed which was lower in erucic acid. They reduced this acid to less than 2 % (there is still a lot of debate about how harmful it is in these smaller amounts but the powers that be let it slide) and canola oil was born. They didn’t want to call it Rape Oil, bad for business. So since it came from Canada and “ola” means oil… Canola oil stuck. Canola oil is highly refined and often partially hydrogenated to increase its stability and shelf life but it somehow became the new darling of the health industry. The American Heart Association encouraged all of us to use it in place of natural, God given saturated fats like butter and coconut oil. In 2006, the FDA allowed canola oil and products containing canola oil to be labeled with heart health claims. Labels could say that limited evidence suggests that eating 19 grams (about 1.5 tablespoons) of canola oil daily in place of saturated fat may reduce the risk of heart disease as long as you don’t increase your total caloric intake.
CLOSER EXAMINATION… NOT SO PRETTY
Let’s examine this so called heart healthy oil more closely. Canola oil is processed at high heats. It is high in Omega 3 fatty acids, (the American Heart Association likes this) but these delicate omega 3 fatty acids oxidize and turn rancid and foul smelling very quickly from the high heats of processing. How do manufacturers get around this? They deodorize it, bleach it and degum it. The standard deodorization process removes a large portion of the omega 3 acids so bye bye to those. Sadly the American Heart Association is not sharing to the public that oxidized oils cause damage to your cells and tissues. Oxidation is not only a major contributor to most degenerative diseases, it also causes inflammation. You know now that it is excess inflammation, (not necessarily elevated cholesterol levels) that creates the biggest risk for heart event problems. Excess inflammation in the body can also give rise to anything from arthritis to more serious diseases such as Parkinson’s, bipolar moods, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorders.
What else do we know about Canola oil? Here’s a sobering fact. 90% of it is genetically modified. You can go on the internet and see that Monsanto is still one of the chief sponsors for the growers of canola oil. They don’t even try to hide it! For real, go look at their logo proudly displayed as a sponsor. In 1995 Monsanto created a genetically modified version of canola oil and this is the version that is chiefly used to this day.
There have been no long-term, viable studies done on GMO canola oil but there are reports that it has caused many kidney, liver and neurological health issues. Research at the Nutrition and Toxicology Research of Ottawa discovered that rats bred to have high blood pressure and susceptibility to stroke died earlier when fed Canola oil than rats fed a diet without canola oil. Another study published in 2000 in “Toxicology Letters” looked at the effect of Canola oil on blood clotting time in stroke prone animals. The study determined that there was a “canola oil-induced shortening of blood coagulation time and increased fragility in red blood cell membranes which may promote the concurrence of strokes… ”
In stark contrast, coconut oil has been a traditional food in tropical climates for thousands of years. Studies done on native diets high in coconut oil consumption show that these populations are in general good health and do not suffer nearly as much from the modern diseases of western nations where coconut oil use is far less. Asian and Pacific populations both use coconut oil not only in food but also in their traditional medical practices. Praised for its many healing properties, Coconut Oil is believed to be the cure of all illnesses in the Pacific Islands. It is so highly valued they refer to the coconut palm as “The Tree of Life.” The populations of two South Pacific islands were examined over a period of time starting in the 1960’s. Coconuts were a staple in the diets, with up to 60% of their caloric intake coming from the saturated fat of coconut. That’s a heck of a lot! The study found very lean and healthy people who were relatively free from modern diseases. Their conclusion stated: “Vascular disease is uncommon in both populations and there is no evidence of the high saturated fat intake having a harmful effect in these populations.”
A SHORT LIST OF COCONUT OIL BENEFITS
We don’t have enough room now to go into the documented benefits of coconut oil on your health. As we mentioned earlier, there are literally thousands of studies you can dig into. But to hit a few highlights… it is anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-weight gain. Yes… you heard us right… it trims you! It raises the thermogenic temperature of your body and this ignites your fat burning potential. If you’re skeptical about this try this little experiment. Next time you’re cold, go swallow a teaspoon or two of coconut oil. Notice how your body will start to warm up. It literally revs a sluggish thyroid which helps you burn fat!
We’ll let you go do your own research about all its other benefits but we want to leave you with this thought to ponder. Mother’s milk and coconut oil have eye opening similarities. If coconut oil really is the villain it is being made out to be why would God make it so similar to human breast milk? Both human milk and coconut oil have more saturated fat than the monounsaturated oils that the heart association promotes. Breast milk relies on these saturated fats to protect infants from pathogens and infections and other harmful organisms and these are the same middle chain fatty acids which make coconut oil so healing and protective. Out of the three middle chain fatty acids, lauric acid is highest both in breast milk and coconut oil alike… they match! Without these saturated lauric acids your baby would probably not survive long. Almost all formula companies add middle chain, saturated fatty acids to their mixes to ensure a baby is properly nourished. God created middle chain fatty acids, he knows their incredible healing power and he made sure that both Mother’s milk and coconut oil contain plentiful amounts in almost identical proportions.
Last week when this report came out and blasted the internet and the airwaves, it didn’t cause us to skip a beat or have an iota of doubt about the coconut oil in our cupboards. We have had too many years of saturating ourselves with this saturated fat and it continues to bless our lives, our health and our waistlines. In fact when we heard about the attack on coconut oil we called each other on the phone and Serene mentioned that instead of putting just 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in her smoothie like she usually does, she added another for good measure and put another one in her home made baby food. Take that you powers that be!
More and more people are learning of the benefits of coconut oil and you can bet it is scaring the vegetable oil industry. They tried last time around and succeeded in causing the world to shun coconut oil for a while but you can’t keep a good thing down. The truth always shines through. Coconut oil might get hammered but it won’t be defeated. We are all armed with too much information now. Perhaps thirty years ago all the scary headlines were believed. Now… we doubt they’ll have the same luck. Coconut oil is going to stay in our grocery carts and thanks but no thanks to the fake, fandangled, gmo, hydrogenated cocktail of trans-fat, bleached sludge canola oil, corn oil and soybean oil being pushed on us. We’ll stick to the good stuff. Now… off to make some Skinny Chocolate!
Serene and Pearl