Dr. Mermet Oz claims that coconut oil has superpowers. It can help you lose weight, treat skin conditions and ulcers, and boost your metabolism. If Dr. Oz says coconut oil has superpowers, it must have superpowers, right? Keep in mind that Dr. Oz is also one of the strongest supporters for the 3-Day Detox Cleanse which many registered dieticians think is a bunch of boloney.
If you’ve decided to use coconut oil to cook with, mix in your coffee or use as a nutritional supplement, you should proceed with caution. Most of the research suggests that not enough data has been gathered on the health benefits of taking coconut oil internally to say that it is safe to consume in quantity. Putting in on your skin and hair might be an altogether different story however.
Good Fat, Bad Fat or Both?
Pure virgin coconut oil contains 92% saturated fat which is the highest amount of saturated fat of any fat. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products and are easily recognizable because they become solid at room temperature. Tropical fats found in palm, palm kernel and coconut oils are saturated fats that can be solid, semi-solid, or liquid at room temperature. Animal fats contain cholesterol. Tropical fats do not.
Consumption of saturated fats is believed to play a major role in the development of cardiovascular disease. Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises our LDL (bad blood cholesterol) which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies that have examined coconut oil and the role it plays on blood cholesterol levels show that it improves the ratio of HDL (good) cholesterol to LDL (bad) cholesterol, but overall, raises LDL levels.
According to Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, “any food that increases LDL cholesterol should be limited because LDL cholesterol is the main treatment target for heart disease.”
But David L. Katz, M.D., director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center says that coconut oil contains lauric acid and stearic acid and these behave differently on the body. He says that early research suggests they don’t raise the risk for heart disease.
Lauric and stearic acids are fatty acids that have been found to increase total cholesterol, but most of the increase is due to an increase in HDL. In fact, lauric acid has a more favorable effect on HDL than any other fatty acid. So the presence of it, along with stearic acid, may keep coconut oil from being in the ‘bad fat’ category with the other saturated fats.
Harvard Health gives coconut oil kudos because it is a plant-based oil that contains antioxidants and other properties. A Harvard Health publication states that “ the overall effects [of coconut oil] on health can’t be predicted just by the changes in LDL and HDL”.
Recommended Daily Requirements
Even though there are conflicting opinions about coconut oil, it’s always wise to practice moderation.
The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fats – whether animal or plant based – should not be more than seven per cent of your daily calories. For a person that consumes 2,000 calories a day, 7% is about 16 grams which amounts to 140 calories. People that are trying to lose weight or lower their LDL should consume even less.
Other Benefits of Coconut Oil Are Questionable
Dr. Oz claims that coconut oil will help you lose weight because it improves the body’s ability to use insulin, boosts thyroid function and increases digestion so that fat-soluble vitamins are more easily absorbed. To date there is no evidence that proves any of these statements are true, although there are plenty of web sites that promote the use of coconut oil and make a variety of claims about its medicinal qualities.
Like all fats, coconut oil is dense in calories and sparse in nutritional value so whether or not it can boost metabolism, give you more energy, or empty the dishwasher for you, limiting how much of the high-calorie oil you consume is key to maintaining a healthy weight.
Dr. Katz, in an article he wrote for Oprah.com said, “I have yet to see any convincing evidence that coconut oil can decrease your heart disease risk (or that it can boost your immune system or help you lose weight –two other claims). Ongoing research may prove otherwise, but until the results are in, don’t make it a point to consume coconut oil. And I wouldn’t substitute it for oils we know are beneficial, such as olive oil and canola.”
I think that’s good advice!
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Have you tried coconut oil?
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