In 2017, the American Heart Association released a new presidential advisory, recommending that everyone AVOID coconut oil. They are concerned that it is high in saturated fat and raises “bad” cholesterol levels – which they believe leads to heart disease. Frank M. Sacks, lead author of American Heart Association’s Presidential Advisory, stated that “there’s nothing wrong with deep frying as long as you deep fry in a nice unsaturated vegetable oil”. They further recommended we cook and fry with oils like canola, olive or corn. These recommendations were followed by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) who recommended lowering intake of foods containing saturated fats, including coconut oil.
Now what do leading cardiologists and other professionals have to say about the above statement and further recommendations by the American Heart Association?
In a lecture delivered at the University of Freiburg, Karin Michels, a professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health stated that “coconut oil is as bad for you as pure poison.” This statement immediately went viral. She went further to state that coconut oil was “one of the worst foods you can eat.
Qi Sun, an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School has stated that even while using extra-virgin coconut oil, “the saturated fat effects outweigh any beneficial effects of the antioxidants.”
Now let’s look at those cardiologists who do not agree with the recommendation regarding coconut oil by the American Heart Association.
Dr. Aseem Malhotra is one of the most influential cardiologists in Britain. He has been successfully leading the campaign against excess sugar consumption. Dr. Malhotra usually refers to the Cambridge University research that looked at the effects of extra virgin coconut oil on cholesterol levels, to back up his stance for the use of coconut oil for heart health. The above study concluded that while butter and olive oil both raised HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) by 5 per cent, coconut oil raised it by an astounding 15 percent.
Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, in an interview with Nada Youssef in March 2018, spoke up unapologetically for the need to include coconut oil in our diet to improve heart health. He stated, “the truth is, it’s the quality of your cholesterol that matters, and coconut oil actually increases the good cholesterol, HDL. It increases the LDL, but it makes the particles better so they’re not as damaging”. HDL is your “good cholesterol” while LDL is your “bad cholesterol”
A lot of health conscious people have decided to replace animal fat with plant-based oils when cooking. Some cardiologists don’t think oil is necessary for cooking. They believe we can cook and enjoy our meals without any oils. This is why many leading vegan doctors such as Dr. Greger, Dr. McDougall, and Dr. Esselstyn advise people to eat plant-based and stop consuming oil.
As you can see for yourself by now, there are so many cardiologists and nutrition experts with conflicting opinions on this topic. So now what are we supposed to do? Should we make coconut oil a kitchen staple for heart health or completely toss it for olive oil and canola oil as recommended by the American Heart Association? Or should we just go to the extreme and stop consuming any oils even the great and powerful coconut oil?
Raquel Britzke, a registered dietitian who runs a clinic on Harley Street in London best concludes this debate in my opinion: “coconut oil is not a miracle food but it most certainly is not poison and can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet.” I totally agree with Ms. Britzke. Now what is your take on this?
WLS, FNS (NASM)