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Wednesday
Jun212017

Questioning Coconut Oil? Here Are the Facts.

Headlines erupted over the weekend with “new” research suggesting that coconut oil is inherently bad for everyone. If you’re confused or concerned about your health, you’re not alone. As a registered dietitian, I want to make sure you have the facts and feel more at ease about your health.

3 things I’d like you to know:  

  1. The research isn’t new. It’s a new position statement published by the AHA (American Heart Association) called an “advisory.” They published their interpretation of available studies.
  2. Saturated fat (like coconut oil) does raise LDL cholesterol — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Often this increase in total LDL (low-density lipoprotein or what people sometimes call “bad” cholesterol) comes along with changes in how we transport cholesterol. Generally, we see increases in particle size (larger, fluffier LDL), and decrease in particle numbers, associated with lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Saturated fat also tends to raise HDL (high density lipoprotein or what people call “good” cholesterol), but the media coverage never mentioned this. You can measure cholesterol particle size/count variations with advanced blood testing, but the AHA report failed to discuss anything outside of total LDL.
  3. Saturated fat can pose risk in context of the Standard American Diet. In response to our modern diet — which includes liberal amounts of refined grains, added sugar (especially fructose), more than “moderate” alcohol, and trans fats — inflammation and insulin load increases. In response, the body rapidly produces VLDL cholesterol that requires LDL to be transported. If you need a little more info about cholesterol, read: “Cholesterol, Health, and Heart Disease.”

Concerned your consumption of coconut oil (or other saturated fats) is affecting your health? Find out.

  • Annually measure your cholesterol particle sizes/counts using NMR Lipoprofile (included in our Advanced or Comprehensive panels.
  • Monitor your systemic inflammation and insulin sensitivity using advanced lab testing (included in our standard panels).
  • Avoid consuming trans fats (or fats that easily turn to trans fats when heated or exposed to air like vegetable oils), minimize added sugars, refined grains, and excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Get adequate daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids, plant nutrients (polyphenols and antioxidants like LIFE greens), fiber, and monounsaturated fats.

 

Need a little more research to dig into about this topic?

Below are several studies and meta-analyses which have dispelled any causal relationship between saturated fat intake and CVD (cardiovascular disease):

Study: The effect of replacing saturated fat with mostly n-6 polyunsaturated fat on coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trialsConclusion: Available evidence from adequately controlled randomized controlled trials suggest replacing SFA with mostly n-6 PUFA is unlikely to reduce CHD (coronary heart disease) events, CHD mortality or total mortality. 

Study: Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studiesConclusion: Trans fats are bad. Really bad. Saturated fat is neutral or even beneficial. 

Study: Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease. Conclusion: Replacing some saturated fat with unsaturated fat may be prudent, but the ideal type of unsaturated fat is not known, according to the authors (hint: it’s most likely monounsaturated fat like olive oil and avocado oil).

Study: Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Conclusion: Saturated fats are not associated with all-cause mortality. Trans fat is.   

Study: Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Conclusion: A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD. 

Study: Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysisConclusion: Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.

It’s my opinion that the AHA (American Heart Association) is trying to help the public, but their message was mangled by the media — which has been confusing and a disservice to consumers. If you still have questions regarding saturated fats or need guidance with lab testing, reach out to us at:WeightLoss@lifetimefitness.com.

 

In health,

Paul Kriegler

Registered Dietitian and Life Time - Nutrition Program Development Manager

 

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.  

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