Ask Well: Is Coconut Oil a Healthy Fat?
Why is coconut oil suddenly considered healthy after being declared unhealthy for three decades?
Coconut oil’s image has gotten a makeover in recent years, and many natural food stores stock the product. But despite “a lot of hype about it,” said Dr. Alice H. Lichtenstein, a Tufts University professor of nutrition science and policy who is vice chair of the federal government’s dietary guidelines advisory committee, “there’s virtually no data to support the hype.”
Coconut oil is high in saturated fatty acids, and saturated fat has been linked to high cholesterol levels and heart disease. Though critics have recently raised questions about the scientific evidencefor the link, longstanding dietary guidelines urge Americans to reduce saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of daily calories, or about 20 grams for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.
There is little research on the health effects in people of coconut oil, Dr. Lichtenstein said, but “there appears to be no independent benefit of consuming it.”
That said, there are different kinds of coconut oil, and virgin coconut oil, which is gently processed, may not have the same harmful effects as highly processed oils, even though the fatty acid composition is similar, said Dr. Tom Brenna, a professor of human nutrition at Cornell University. Refined, bleached and deodorized, or R.B.D., coconut oil, which has been treated with solvents and subjected to intense heat, raises cholesterol so reliably that scientists have used it as a control when running experiments on different fats. The harsh processing may destroy some of the good essential fatty acids and antioxidants, such as lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid believed to raise good H.D.L. cholesterol.
“If you’re going to use coconut oil, make sure you get virgin oil,” Dr. Brenna said. “And, of course, everything in moderation.”
Original article from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/24/ask-well-is-coconut-oil-a-healthy-fat/?action=click&contentCollection=Well&module=RelatedCoverage®ion=Marginalia&pgtype=article