As I sit down to write this email, I have a smile on my face. The cup of coffee I am drinking contains MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) derived from coconut oil. In recent months, there has been much debate on whether coconut oil is the best thing for your health, just another health fad, or worse, detrimental to your health. As you can probably guess, I know that coconut oil is great for my health.
It wasn’t too long ago that The American Heart Association (AHA) announced that coconut oil was bad for you. What?! I almost broke out in tears of laughter… and THEN tears of sadness. I had to keep in mind that this is the SAME advisory organization that endorses breakfast cereals loaded with sugars and artificial additives. Not so surprising after all.
It’s important to look at this coconut oil advisory in context: Saturated fats have been proven, repeatedly, not to be bad for our health. The fact is, they don’t raise the risk of heart disease when we eat a diet that is low in sugar and carbohydrates and high in omega-3 fatty acids - such as from cold water fish and raw nuts and seeds.
The Biggest Heart Disease Culprits: Sugars + Simple Carbs
Studies have shown that it’s sugars and excess carbohydrates that inflame the arteries, lead to arterial plaques, trigger the production of the “bad” types of cholesterol, and promote obesity.
Polyunsaturated fats, which the AHA recommends in place of coconut oil (and other saturated fats) are high in omega-6. A healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is needed, and humans evolved on a ratio of about 1:1. However, in modern day society, the average American eats far too much omega-6 with a ratio of about 16:1, thus promoting chronic disease.
It’s About Inflammation, Not Cholesterol
Excess omega-6, which is ample in polyunsaturated vegetable oils, is linked with chronic inflammatory disorders, such as fatty liver, arthritis, and irritable bowel disorder. Chronic systemic inflammation has also been found to increase the risk of heart disease.
Meanwhile, guess what DOESN’T contribute to heart disease risk… that’s right, cholesterol. What matters are levels of inflammation - I measure inflammation markers in the blood with high-sensitivity CRP, homocysteine, and triglycerides.
Saturated Fats vs. Trans Fats
Although it’s not clear which saturated fats were investigated in the study panning coconut oil, the majority of studies linking saturated fats to heart disease include hydrogenated, or trans, fats. Trans fats are inflammatory, artery-clogging, brain damaging fats that should be avoided at ALL costs. It’s 100% incorrect to group them in with natural saturated fats. Please remember this!
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
In a nutshell, if you manage your blood sugar levels with moderate-to-low consumption of complex carbohydrates, you avoid sugars and processed carbohydrates, you eat plenty of omega-3 fats, and your diet includes 7 to 10 servings a day of vegetables and low-glycemic fruits, chances are, you can safely enjoy liberal amounts of coconut oil.
In fact, coconut oil has even been shown to have healthy heart benefits. The heart prefers the fatty acids found in coconut oil as a source of fuel.
Coconut oil is also known to:
The AHA Diet: Increasing Your Risk for Heart Disease
Unfortunately, the AHA promotes pro-inflammatory foods that are high in sugars, processed carbs, and omega-6 oils - the very foods that are MOST associated with chronic diseases. To their credit, however, they also promote 7 to 10 servings of produce a day and ample omega-3 fatty acids, both of which are excellent anti-inflammatory approaches that support heart health.
If you follow the AHA’s advice to replace calories from healthy natural fats with AHA-approved foods high in industrialized oils and processed carbohydrates, you may find both your blood test results and symptoms worsen. Let’s avoid that, okay?