by Dr. Mercola
Saturated fat has been wrongfully vilified as the cause of high cholesterol and heart disease for the last 60 years, when in fact the converse was true all along.
The result of people following the misguided advice to replace saturated fats (like coconut oil) with polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as soybean oil) is reflected in the statistics for heart disease today. Prior to 1920, coronary artery disease was actually a rarity. In the 1950’s, rates began to rise in step with the increased consumption of hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fat), which replaced saturated fats like butter and lard that had been the norm in previous decades…
Today, soybean oil makes up 68 percent of the vegetable oils and fats consumed by Americans.
Double-Blind Clinical Trial Puts Coconut- versus Soybean Oil to the Test
In the featured 12-week long study, researchers evaluated the effects of coconut oil and soybean oil on the biochemical profiles and waist circumference on 40 obese women, aged 20-40. Belly fat, known as visceral fat, is the type of fat linked to heart disease, diabetes and stroke, among many other chronic diseases.
Divided into two groups of 20 participants each, the women received a daily supplement of 30ml (about two tablespoons) of either soybean oil or coconut oil. They also followed a balanced low-calorie diet, and walked for 50 minutes per day. The end result?
The coconut oil group presented:
- Increased levels of HDL (good cholesterol)
- Decreased LDL/HDL ratio
- Reduced waist circumference/abdominal obesity
The soybean oil group presented:
- Increased total cholesterol
- Increased LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Increased LDL/HDL ratio
- Decreased HDL (good cholesterol)
- No reduction in waist circumference/abdominal obesity
The authors concluded:
“It appears that dietetic supplementation with coconut oil does not cause dyslipidemia [an abnormal amount of cholesterol and/or fat in your blood] and seems to promote a reduction in abdominal obesity.”
This is exactly what I’ve been writing about for the last 15 years, and if you’ve been a long-time reader of this newsletter, you already knew that these kinds of results were to be expected.
The Truth about Soybean Oil
Polyunsaturated fats (soybean- and other vegetable oils) tend to go rancid (become oxidized) during cooking and processing, and once this happens, the free radicals created can wreak havoc in your body, attacking cell membranes and damaging DNA/RNA strands. Arterial plaque is the result of free radical damage in your blood vessels, which is the hallmark of cardiovascular- and heart disease.
Excess consumption of polyunsaturated fats has also been linked to other diseases and health problems, including:
- Increased cancer risk
- Immune system dysfunction
- Liver and lung damage
- Damage to reproductive organs
- Digestive disorders
- Reduced learning ability
- Stunted growth
- Weight gain
Several years ago, in response to the increased demand to reduce trans fats in food, and the mandatory labeling of trans fats, the food industry began switching over to a modified soybean oil from so-called ‘low linolenic soybeans.’ This low-linolenic oil does not require hydrogenation, a process that increases shelf life and flavor stability, but also creates trans-fat. How much of the food supply now contains this low-linolenic type of soybean oil is unknown, but I think it’s fair to guess that the prevalence would be quite high.
However, please do not be fooled, because these so-called “healthier” vegetable oils are still a disastrous choice for most people, as they can significantly distort the sensitive omega-6/omega-3 ratio that controls many delicate biochemical pathways, resulting in accelerating many chronic degenerative diseases.
Besides this traditionally-bred ‘low-lin’ soybean, over 90 percent of all soy, corn, and canola oils are made from genetically engineered seeds created to withstand otherwise lethal doses of Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, which is yet another reason to steer clear of these harmful vegetable oils.
These genetically modified (GM) foods pose enormous hazards to human health, and according to Dr. Joseph Hibbeln at the National Institutes of Health, it’s estimated that soybeans, usually in the form of oil, account for 10 percent of the average person’s total calories in the United States! This is a double-whammy of bad news, because not only is most of this soy bean oil genetically modified, it’s also an unhealthy fat in and of itself, even if it’s organic, as you can see by the results of the featured study above.
Why Coconut Oil is “Special” Among Saturated Fats
Now on to coconut oil; a rare gem among saturated fats, with numerous health benefits. First, did you know that multiple studies on Pacific Island populations who get 30-60 percent of their total caloric intact from fully saturated coconut oil have all shown nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease?
Coconut oil can be helpful for pregnant women, nursing moms, the elderly, those concerned about digestive health, athletes (even weekend warriors), and those of you who just want to enhance your overall health. One of the explanations for its broad health applications is because it’s rich in lauric acid, which converts in your body to monolaurin – a compound also found in breast milk that strengthens a baby’s immunity.
Its medium chain fatty acids, or triglycerides (MCT’s), also impart a number of health benefits, including raising your body’s metabolism and fighting off pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Capric acid, another coconut fatty acid present in smaller amounts, is another antimicrobial component.
Coconut oil is also excellent for your thyroid. Additionally, a very exciting and recent discovery is that coconut oil may even serve as a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, as MCT’s are also a primary source of ketone bodies, which act as an alternate source of brain fuel that can help prevent the brain atrophy associated with dementia.
Previous Studies Confirm: Coconut Oil Helpful for Fat Loss
Going back to the results in the featured study for a moment, previous studies have also found that the medium chain fatty acids (MCT’s) found in coconut oil promote weight loss, and are helpful for shedding adipose fat in particular. One such study showed that rats fed long chain fatty acids (LCTs, found in vegetable oils) stored body fat, while rats fed MCTs (found in coconut oil) reduced body fat and improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Specifically, MCT’s were found to down-regulate the expression of adipogenic genes.
Another 2003 study found that MCT’s increased energy expenditure and decreased adiposity in overweight men—a similar finding as in the study above. Here, 24 overweight men consumed diets rich in either MCT or LCT for 28 days, and those consuming MCTs lost more weight and had more energy than those consuming LCTs (in this case olive oil, as opposed to soy bean oil).
Coconut Oil and Cholesterol
Most of the conventional advice relating to coconut oil and cholesterol are false and misleading. Coconut oil has been repeatedly shown to be beneficial rather than detrimental on cholesterol levels and heart health. As explained in a previous article written by Ray Pete, it’s been clearly established for over 80 years now that suppression of the thyroid raises serum cholesterol (and increases mortality from infections, cancer, and heart disease), while restoring the thyroid hormone brings cholesterol down to normal.
As mentioned earlier, coconut oil does both; it balances your thyroid and normalizes your cholesterol levels.
“As far as the evidence goes… coconut oil, added regularly to a balanced diet, lowers cholesterol to normal by promoting its conversion into pregnenolone,” he writes. “Coconut-eating cultures in the tropics have consistently lower cholesterol than people in the U.S.”
Mary Enig with the Weston A Price Foundation has also written at length about the beneficial effects of coconut oil on heart health and cholesterol levels.
Are You Ready to Make the Switch?
Generally speaking, foods that are likely to contain health-harming trans fats include deep-fried foods, processed baked goods, snack foods and processed foods, including fast foods. Aside from soybean oil, other varieties to avoid include corn and canola oil, so make sure to read the labels when shopping. If you want to avoid dangerous fats of all kinds, your best bet is to eliminate processed foods from your diet. From there, use these tips to make sure you’re eating the right fats for your health:
Use organic coconut oil for all your cooking needs. It is far superior to any other cooking oil and is loaded with health benefits. Make sure you choose an organic coconut oil that is unrefined, unbleached, made without heat processing or chemicals, and does not contain GM ingredients.
Use organic butter (preferably made from raw milk) instead of margarines and vegetable oil spreads. Butter is a healthy whole food that has received an unwarranted bad rap.
Be sure to eat raw fats, such as those from avocados, raw dairy products, and olive oil, and also take a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fat, such as krill oil.