Were we all wrong about coconut oil?

Were we all wrong about coconut oil?

by Pamela Ng 20 Feb 2020

For a long time, people have sung praises about the benefits of coconut oil. And why not? It apparently has the ability to improve the health of your brain, thyroid and heart.


Yet, on 15 June 2017, the American Heart Associate (AHA) published a statement that declared coconut oil to be unhealthy. Advocates of coconut oil and many dietary experts voiced out and spoke against the data and information that AHA has used to make this claim.

So, who is right? 


1. “Cherry-picking” data

AHA has been alleged to have “cherry-picked” information. Scientific papers that were used by AHA were misinterpreted at best and false at worst. With this, many hold the opinion that AHA has compromised its ability to be a neutral voice in judging coconut oil, giving way to some level of biasness.


2. Misleading claims of saturated fat

AHA contended that coconut oil contains significant amounts of saturated fat, hence deeming it to be unhealthy. However, the truth is simply not that that straightforward. While coconut oil does contain a lot of saturated fat, it belongs to a sub-type called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that is actually good for the body. For one, MCTs are smaller and easier to break down for use as energy and hence, it is not involved in the formation of blood cholesterol.


3. Heart attack and stroke risk

High levels of blood cholesterol are a contributing factor to the risk of heart attack and stroke and it may be attributed to consumption of unhealthy amounts of saturated fat. However, the saturated fat afforded by coconut oil are more geared towards use as energy as opposed to storage. Furthermore, consuming the amount of saturated fat via coconut oil required to constitute such a reaction is nigh impossible, as anyone who has ever tasted coconut oil can attest.


As a national scientific and medical body, AHA seems to have missed out on the finer details of coconut oil that would have affected its verdict. While the debate rages on, the proof as they say, is in the pudding. In sensible amounts, coconut oil can offer better health benefits, especially when used over vegetable cooking oils like soybean and canola.