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Coconut oil is not healthy according to the American Heart Association

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Do you love coconut oil? Well, beware, perhaps this alleged "superfood" may not be so beneficial to your health after all. In fact, many supposed superfoods may not be as miraculous as you think.

Professor at Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health, Karin Michels, held a nearly one hour conference on YouTube about the dangers of coconut oil.

The video titled, "Coconut oil and other nutritional errors," has more than 800 thousand views on YouTube. At the conference, Michels clearly states that coconut oil is not really healthy at all and I add that no scientific study has proven its supposed beneficial effects on the health of individuals. Her statements are in accordance with the updated guidelines of the American Heart Association (AHA). In mid-2017, the AHA revised its stance on coconut oil and advised consumers to stay away from fatty acids it contains, which are mostly saturated fatty acids.

The American Heart Association reviewed existing data on saturated fats, showing that coconut oil increased LDL ("bad") cholesterol in seven of seven controlled trials. Researchers did not see a difference between coconut oil and other oils high in saturated fats, such as butter, cow fat and palm oil. In fact, 82% of the fat in coconut oil is composed of saturated fatty acids, which represents a much higher value than in the case of butter (63%), cow fat (50%), and lard (39%).

Saturated fatty acids are those fats that only have simple bonds in their chemical structure. Saturated fatty acids usually represent 30-40% of the total fat in animal tissue. Palmitic and stearic acid are universally found in natural fats, while lauric acid is especially abundant in coconut oil and palm oil.

Observational studies have shown that high intake of saturated fatty acids (more than 15% of daily energy intake) is directly associated with an increase in blood cholesterol levels and mortality from cerebrovascular disease (CVD).

It has been observed that saturated fatty acids with 12-16 carbons tend to increase plasma levels of total cholesterol, and LDL, however, stearic acid (18 carbons) does not have these effects. Within the saturated fatty acids that increase cholesterol, myristic acid (14 carbons) appears as the most potent, followed by lauric acid (abundant in coconut oil) and palmitic acid (16 carbons).

While the AHA did not say that the coconut is one of the worst foods in the world, Michels did. She stated that "coconut oil is pure poison." She went on to explain that "it is one of the worst foods you can eat." This revelation is worrying considering the large number of people who consume this oil believing that it will help them to alleviate a great variety of diseases and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Coconut oil is even considered a worse option than lard due to the greater amount of saturated fatty acids it contains.  As for other superfoods, the Harvard speaker said that they might not be dangerous, but the health claims surrounding food such as acai, chia or matcha seeds may be exaggerated.

The new guidelines outlined in the AHA report "The Skinny on Fats" advises consumers to limit the consumption of saturated and trans fats. The researchers recommend opting for the natural form of non-hydrogenated vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower or olive oil. As you may notice, coconut oil is not included in the list of healthiest fats.

The American Heart Association recommends those people who need to lower their cholesterol levels, reduce their intake of saturated fats to no more than 5% of total daily calories. For someone who eats 2,000 calories a day, this represents approximately 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat.

As with most things, the typical recommendation is to enjoy something like coconut oil in moderation. But, with people putting it in their coffee and using it for everything, it seems that moderation may have gone out the window with this so-called superfood. Coconut oil may not be a poison; however, its exaggerated use can cause severe problems in the health of the individual.


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