The American Heart Association recently released an advisory announcing that people can reduce their risk of cardiovascular problems by replacing saturated fat with “healthier” fats in their every day diet. They emphasized the dangers of saturated fat levels in coconut oil, an oil that has been heralded as healthy by people following recent popular diets such as the Ketogenic or Paleo diets.
This “advisory” is misleading, mainly because it’s not based on any new research at all. It’s simply an analysis of around 100 studies dating back to the 1950s concluding that a diet lower in saturated fat lowers LDL cholesterol particles, which can clog the arteries and cause cardiovascular problems.
So… why is the American Heart Association declaring all of these problems with saturated fat based on conclusions that they have already made? They presented no new evidence, conducted no studies, and essentially did nothing but write an article based on the government’s research (no third party research) and promote it as something new.
Now, if I was a non-profit institution that really wanted to produce good research and content in order to optimize the heart health of the American people, I would spend my precious time and money creating in depth, long term and controlled experiments to research what was really happening in the human diet.
Who is saying Coconut Oil is good for you?
Coconut Oil has been lauded my many people for its health benefits, including increasing good (HDL) cholesterol, decreasing inflammation in the body, and providing a good source of fast absorbing medium chain triglycerides.
Medium chain triglycerides are fatty acids that can be turned into energy rapidly when your body is in a state of ketosis, where your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose. This is awesome for people following a ketogenic or even a paleo diet that is high in fat and extremely low in carbohydrates. They also have been shown to increase cognitive ability and help to manage one’s weight.
However, if you are eating a Standard American Diet (High in carbs, moderate protein and fat), then your body, which is constantly spiking insulin levels through the consumption of carbohydrates, will be much more likely to store any dietary fat that is consumed, including coconut oil.
Why the AHA Hates Saturated Fat
Ever since Ancel Keys published his studies on the consumption of saturated fat (in the form of butter, lard, tallow, ghee, eggs and beef) and its possible links to coronary heart disease, the AHA has made it their mission to declare from the mountaintops that people should cut these foods out and replace them with things such as vegetable oil, “low fat” (sugar-laden) healthy foods, and things like skim milk. His hypothesis going into this study was that all dietary fat causes obesity and cancer.
While the subjects in his final report seemed to have had an increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems, if one looks further into the study the reader will find that, while Keys took data from 22 different countries, he threw out all but 7 countries’ data, which were conveniently the countries that experienced more health problems.
The subjects in every country were only measured in deaths per 1000, charted against the percent of dietary saturated fat in their diets. There was no research into the other types of food (perhaps sugar) that were being consumed along with the fat.
Keys also had a bit of history in debunking other scientists’ research on the harmful effects of sugar in the diet, which the sugar industry adamantly tried to promote and did so pretty successfully. This is unfortunate because the effects of sugar on obesity and type 2 diabetes are impossible to ignore. If Ancel Keys’ research and, consequently, the AHA’s recommendations are the right sources to trust, then why have things like child obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes only increased since the 1950s? Doesn’t make sense.
These People Should Use Coconut Oil for Massive Benefits
If you are going to incorporate coconut oil into your every day diet, and expect to experience its various health benefits, here’s what you should do
Research and Try the Ketogenic Diet
If you want to get the most benefit out of coconut oil, you should try going keto. Mac and I have both been on this diet for about two months, and I believe it has changed my life dramatically. I no longer have random hunger pangs, my body fat has dropped, and I have much more stable energy all day. The ketogenic diet is basically a diet comprising of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrate (the fat and protein percentages can be altered slightly based on your goals). You can read more about the ketogenic diet in this post which I highly recommend
If you can’t do Keto, go Paleo
If you just can’t find it in yourself to give up those potatoes or fruits, then consider going Paleo. This approach focuses on eating whole, unprocessed foods, and keeping away from things such as breads and refined sugars. This approach doesn’t put your body into ketosis, but it keeps your insulin spikes to a minimum, allowing you to reduce inflammation and lose some fat.
In conclusion, our opinion on the AHA’s flawed “advisory” against coconut oil and saturated fat in general is that it lacks new and compelling research, and that it seems suspicious that a seemingly respected organization like this would release something to counteract a movement of growing awareness for the dangers of sugar and the potential benefits of a sugarless, and perhaps carb-less, diet.