Response to American Heart Association Paper that Saturated Fat and Coconut Oil are Bad

You’ve probably seen the headlines like “Coconut Oil is Actually Terrible For You” that were seen after the American Heart Association (AHA) paper was published in the medical journal, Circulation, on June 15, 2017 that argues that saturated fat is the cause of heart disease. Most of these newspaper and magazine articles refer to the new study that presents this new evidence. But there is no new study!  All that happened is that these American Heart Association doctors published what amounts to an opinion piece based on old research.  After reviewing what they consider the four most important studies, all from the 1960s, they conclude that heart disease is caused by consuming foods with saturated fats, like meat, cheese, and coconut oil, and the answer is to substitute vegetable oils, like corn, soybean, and canola oil.

These doctors do not present any new evidence to support this older theory that our focus with diet should be to avoid saturated fats, like butter, cheese, red meat, and coconut oil and we should substitute polyunsaturated vegetable oils like soybean and corn oil. But these studies from the 1960s have problems with them, including that when you substitute vegetable oils, like soybean oil that are very high in omega 6 fats, you get an increased rate of death from cancer. This is because omega 6 fats promote inflammation. Thus, while the Los Angeles Veteran’s trial, one of their 4 core studies, showed lower rates of death from heart disease, there was actually no lower rate of death because the increased rate of death from cancer and other diseases made up for it.

The American Heart Association also ignored the recently published Minnesota Coronary Experiment that was conducted 40 years ago but was just recently published that found that for every 30 mg/dL reduction in serum cholesterol resulted in a 22% higher risk of death.  And the AHA also dismissed several meta-analyses that have been published recently that demonstrate that there is no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease or stroke.

The AHA conclusion that coconut oil is unhealthy is based on the fact that it contains mostly saturated fats, which they claim are the primary cause of heart disease through raising LDL levels. As I mentioned, saturated fat intake if it is part of a high carbohydrate diet, esp. processed carbs, can increase atherosclerosis risk, but if part of a healthy, low glycemic program, coconut oil does not increase heart disease risk.  While coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, the primary saturated fat is lauric acid, which is directly absorbed by intestinal enterocytes and may prevent fat deposition in blood vessels.

 Further, there are quite a number of proven benefits of coconut oil, including that it is a good, high heat cooking oil, it was shown in several studies to help with weight loss, it raises HDL levels (the “good” cholesterol), and improvements in cognitive function, including in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m still using my coconut oil to cook my eggs and on my roasted vegetables.  It is a much better choice than to use soybean oil.  If you want to modify your diet and lifestyle to put you on a path that lowers your risk of heart disease, make an appointment with Dr. Weitz for a Functional Nutrition consultation.
1 reply
  1. Eric
    Eric says:

    I agree with your article. I’ve been consuming coconut oil for it’s many health benefits for quite some time, and have maintained healthy cholesterol levels.


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