I am sure by now that at some point you’ve heard someone raving about all the supposed health benefits of coconut oil. From lowering bad cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease, and burning fat it seems that every time I get on social media there is someone who is claiming that these are the benefits of consuming coconut oil.
Will Coconut Oil Lower Cholesterol Levels?
Coconut oil is composed of 84% saturated fat which means a tablespoon contains 13 grams of saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting this type of fat to no more than 13 grams a day. The argument made by advocates of coconut oil is that it contains Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) which are saturated fats that are better for us than others. There is not enough quality evidence in literature and studies to support this claim, and as of now it is concluded that coconut oil is not any better for us than other saturated fat products. Those who advocate coconut oil may mention that it could help boost HDL or “good” cholesterol but fail to mention that it also raises LDL or “bad” cholesterol. It is unknown if the rise of HDL cholesterol is enough to outweigh the risk associated with the rise of LDL cholesterol.
Will Coconut Oil Help Me Lose Weight?
Coconut oil is also claimed to increase your energy expenditure and help you burn more fat and lose weight. There is very little evidence in humans to be able to say that the use of coconut oil will help you lose weight. In one small study of 40 obese woman between the ages of 20-40 years, the group of women who supplemented with coconut oil saw a very modest decrease in waist circumference compared to the group of women that supplemented with soy bean oil. Although there was a very small difference in waist circumference, there was no change in BMI or fat mass between the groups.
Does It Help with the Slowing of Alzheimer’s?
There are claims that are going around that coconut oil can reduce mental losses due to Alzheimer’s by giving the brain an alternate energy source, although this is mostly anecdotal and the evidence is mostly by word of mouth and not studied trials.
So Should You Eat Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil should definitely not be off-limits for anyone that enjoys cooking with it or simply enjoys the flavor that it can add to food, but it shouldn’t quite be used with the intention of it dropping cholesterol levels or aiding in weight loss. It is fine to add small amounts of it to your diet but focus on eating and cooking with healthier kinds of fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (found in canola or olive oil). When picking up a jar of coconut oil choose wisely as many coconut oil products are highly processed and refined. Choose the oil that is labeled as virgin coconut oil as it is less processed than the other kinds.
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Prepared by Ricardo Blanco, Student Assistant
Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD firstname.lastname@example.org