Coconut oil is not heart healthy

Highly successful Industry marketing has convinced many that coconut oil is a ‘health food’. This well conducted meta-analysis of 16 studies confirms this not to be true. Coconut oil consistently leads to an increase in blood LDL-cholesterol. It is unlikely, given current knowledge, that the corresponding rise in HDL-cholesterol will counteract the adverse effects of the raised LDL. Shockingly, the effects were worse than for palm oil.

This meta-analysis found that compared with nontropical oils, coconut oil significantly increased total cholesterol by 14.69 mg/dL, increased LDL-cholesterol by 10.47 mg/dL , and increased HDL-cholesterol by 4.00 mg/dL. Based on these changes and mean baseline blood lipid concentrations, the estimated percent change in LDL-cholesterol was 8.6%, and the percent change in HDL-cholesterol was 7.8%. Coconut oil did not change concentrations of triglycerides significantly compared with the nontropical oils. Compared with palm oil, coconut oil significantly increased total cholesterol by 25.57 mg/dL. LDL-cholesterol by 20.50 mg/ dL and HDL-cholesterol by 2.83 mg/dL, but not triglycerides.

Saturated fat consumption consistently raises LDL-cholesterol in a linear fashion. There are not many plant sources of saturated fat but coconut oil is one. Lauric acid comprises about half of the total fatty acids of coconut oil. Although classed as a medium chain fatty acid, it acts more like a long chain fatty acid and does elevate LDL-cholesterol. In addition, 25% of coconut fat consists of the long-chain saturated fatty acids myristic acid and palmitic acid, known to adversely affect cardiovascular health.

If you are going to use oil in cooking then best to stick with oils high in unsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil and canola/rapeseed oil. Processed oils are not required in the diet and healthy fats can be obtained from whole plant foods. The worry is that many processed vegan foods now contain quite a bit of coconut oil. These foods should be eaten rarely as a treat as their long term effects on health are unlikely to be favourable.