In part one of my article about coconut oil, I began to lay the groundwork to refute the widely held myth that coconut oil is beneficial to one’s overall cardiovascular health. It still amazes me that despite the fact that the general public has been educated that saturated fats should be avoided, somehow coconut oil, which is a saturated fat, is good for us. Saturated fats are found in animal fats, dairy, and tropical oils. Coconut oil has more saturated fat than any other vegetable oil. It is amazing when people find out that 92 percent of coconut fat is saturated. Olive and soybean oils, for example, are about 15 percent saturated. Beef fat is about 50 percent saturated and butter is 63 percent saturated, only palm kernel oil, at 82 percent saturated, rivals coconut oil. Coconut oil contains a large proportion of lauric acid—a saturated fat that raises blood cholesterol levels. Many health organizations advise against the consumption of high amounts of coconut oil due to its high levels of saturated fat, including the United States Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, International College of Nutrition, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, British National Health Service, and Dietitians of Canada.
On a positive note I can say that medium chain triglycerides, which are found in coconut oil, are very beneficial and necessary for certain people with gastrointestinal conditions. MCTs are passively absorbed in the intestine unlike other triglycerides, and those individuals who cannot absorb triglycerides for different reasons need MCTs as a source of energy for the body.
It is important to explain the difference between a peer-reviewed scientific journal and what I refer to as an industry publication, also known as “toilet” journal. Medical journals are where information is first shared with those individuals who were not part of the publication. The media gets this medical information and unfortunately, much of the time fails to look at the source. An understanding of this is crucial because of what one finds when the words “peer-reviewed journals on coconuts” or “scholarly articles on coconut oil” are googled, I think most people would be shocked to see what the article or story really says and the title and source of the publication that provided information in support of a beneficial cardiovascular effect from large amounts of ingested coconut oil. I have done it and can assure you that mice studies cannot be applied to humans, and with the exception of a couple of articles, none are published in respected peer reviewed journals. So what does peer review really mean? Peer review refers to the work done during the screening of submitted manuscripts and funding applications. This process encourages authors to meet the accepted standards of their discipline and prevents the dissemination of irrelevant findings, unwarranted claims, unacceptable interpretations, and personal views. It should be noted that reviewers are anonymous to the authors. Publications that have not undergone peer review are likely to be regarded with suspicion by scholars and professionals.
The Internet is a place where anybody can be an expert on a topic, and if it is “sexy” and the new fad, one can attract hundreds if not thousands of followers who suddenly believe that what they read has to be factual. Many of these “experts” lack any credentials to comment on certain medical topics. They are potentially harming individuals with some outrageous medical claims, but many have a financial interest in the products they endorse. Coconut oil is one of the new and “sexy” topics that seem to garnish the attention of many people who are looking to improve their overall health, which possibly can translate into looking younger and living longer.
Although I personally love coconut milk, as a board certified heart surgeon, it is incumbent upon me to know the facts based on the “best” published data so I can educate my patients. I have to say with certainty that coconut oil and milk, not coconut water, are harmful to humans from a cardiovascular standpoint. For more information, please go to http://www.lipidcenter.com