Sellers of coconut oil use a beef industry tactic to downplay the risks associated with the saturated fat in their products.
Why not give it a try, though? Well, unlike other natural remedies, like the spice saffron, which was able to beat out placebo and seemed to work as well as a leading drug without the side effects, coconut oil is one of the rare plant sources of saturated fat, normally only found in animals, which tends to increase LDL, or bad cholesterol, the number one risk factor for our number one killer, heart disease. So hey, you want to try it on someone with Alzheimer’s for a few days to see if it makes a difference, fine. God, I'd try almost anything. But if, as expected, you don't see an improvement, I would be hesitant to keep anyone on it long-term. Now those selling coconut oil say one needn't worry because coconut oil contains a saturated fat that doesn't raise cholesterol. You hear the same thing from the beef people. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is always going on about how beef contains a saturated fat called stearic acid. Unlike those evil saturated fats, palmitic, myristic, and lauric acids - which do increase blood cholesterol levels - stearic acid has been shown to have a neutral effect on blood cholesterol. That's true, and beef does have stearic acid, but guess what it has twice as much of the palmitic and myristic, which they just admitted does raise cholesterol. That's like coca cola saying they know for a fact that soda doesn't make you gain weight, because it contains water, and water has a neutral effect on weight gain. Yeah, but that's not the only thing in it, and the same with coconut oil. Years ago I profiled this study that found that cholesterol levels were significantly lower during a coconut oil diet—but only when compared to a butter diet. Yes you know you have a bad product when the only way you can make it look good is to compare it to diets rich in butter. Yes it made bad cholesterol go up, but not as bad as butter, but how much is that really saying. That was all the science we had for ten years, but four new studies have recently come out, a population study and three clinical trials. The population was Filipino women, and although those that ate the most coconut oil had the worst levels of bad cholesterol, they were also more overweight, which alone can raise your cholesterol. When the fact that the coconut oil eaters were eating a lot more calories, and were more overweight, etc. was factored out the rise in cholesterol lost statistical significance. To really control for factors, though, you've got to put it to the test. The first clinical trial involved giving people 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day for 3 months and their bad cholesterol went up but not significantly. But during this time they were all forced to lose weight be being placed on a calorie-restricted diet. When you lose weight your LDL should drop naturally; the fact that it didn't on the coconut oil suggests an adverse effect. A most encouraging study was this one, an open-label, meaning not blinded, no control group, pilot study in which 2 tablespoons for coconut oil a day for a month added to their regular diet did not worsen their cholesterol, though when tested in a better designed study—a randomized crossover trial coconut oil did significantly worsen bad cholesterol, hence Walt Willett's recommendation from Harvard, if you are going to use it use it sparingly. Now look, if you're eating so healthy that your LDL cholesterol is under 60 or 70, then I don't see coconut oil as a problem. Unlike saturated animal fats, coconut oil doesn't cause that spike inflammation immediately after consumption of animal foods, which makes sense because as you'll remember it may be the dead bacterial endotoxins in animal products ferried into the body by saturated fat that are to blame. So in this study when people were given chocolate cake made out of flax seed oil or coconut oil we didn't see much change in inflammatory gene expression, but the cod liver oil cake seemed worse.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Jonathan Hodgson.
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If you missed my last video, this is a follow-up to Does Coconut Oil Cure Alzheimer's?
Here are the two saffron videos I referenced: Saffron for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s and Saffron Versus Aricept. The spice may also help with PMS (Saffron for the Treatment of PMS) and depression (Saffron vs. Prozac).
Think my water-in-Coke joke was too over the top? When a corporate exec was asked on the stand if Coca Cola was "nutritious" he said that it is "providing water, and I think that is part of a balanced diet."
More on meat industry hijinks in videos/blogs like:
The "compared to butter" bit reminds me of the "compared to pork" nuttiness: Nuts and Bolts of Cholesterol Lowering.
What was that thing I said about saturated animal fat and endotoxins? See my three part series:
Please be sure to check out my associated blog post for even more context: Is Coconut Oil Bad For You?
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