This week I got a lot of questions about coconut oil. The trigger? A lecture by a professor from the University of Freiburg, which went viral on YouTube and reached an incredible number of people within a very short time. The key message of the lecture: Coconut oil is pure poison. Whoever eats it will die a certain cardiac death.
This lecture went against the grain with me. It was based on biases and due to that came to completely wrong conclusions. Therefore I would like to describe my view of things to you. In case you haven’t seen the lecture, the professor justified the thesis that coconut oil is poison by stating that it largely consists of saturated fatty acids. These are said to increase cholesterol levels and clog arteries and lead to heart disease. The professor refered again and again to the latest recommendations of the American Heart Association.
Saturated fat increases cholesterol levels
Again and again warnings are given against saturated fatty acids, as it is assumed that they increase the cholesterol in the blood and thus lead to a blockage of the coronary arteries and thus to diseases of the cardiovascular system. But is that even true? No! Sad but true: the cholesterol hysteria arose as a result of cruel animal experiments. Rabbits, which are known to be pure plant eaters, were fed with an excessively large amounts of animal fat for a long time. When the rabbits then developed arteriosclerosis and heart problems, it was concluded that saturated fatty acids also lead to these diseases in humans.
In fact, our bodies make cholesterol by itself because it is an essential substance. 90 percent of our cholesterol is produced by the body itself, which is why food that promote cholesterol such as eggs, animal and saturated fats, meat, oily fish, etc. are of little relevance for our blood cholesterol.
Cholesterol leads to cardiovascular disease
Everyone talks about cholesterol, but hardly anyone knows what it really is: a vital part of our cell membranes that is used to repair and regenerate cell walls. Cholesterol is not the criminal but the helper in need. The hardship often begins with a diet that is low in vital nutrients, with lots of heavily processed foods and very few vegetables and fruits. If our body lacks vital substances and antioxidants, our blood vessels become unflexible because they lack collagen, which is dependent on vitamin C in food. The stiff blood vessels are now attacked by free radicals and will crack over time. If the body did not provide first aid now, blood would seep into the tissue. And this is where our rescuer comes in: the body builds up more cholesterol, which, together with proteins and calcium, forms a super glue that closes cracks and thus prevents the worst. If this goes on for a while, the blood vessels become increasingly narrow, which is the beginning of arteriosclerosis. Cholesterol deposited in the blood vessels is therefore a symptom and not a cause.
If you know one, you know all
It’s interesting that the biggest critics of coconut oil seem to never have had coconut oil in their hands. For a long time, scientific studies were made with any kind of saturated fatty acids, such as butter and lard, and then applied to all other fatty acids. Sorry, what??
Even supporters of the cholesterol theory believe:
Coconut oil has positive effects on heart health
One of the most recent studies on coconut oil (yes, with real coconut oil, not lard!) was carried out by scientists at Cambridge University. They tested coconut oil versus olive oil and butter and its effects on cholesterol in the body. Coconut oil came off the best. The scientists themselves were amazed that coconut oil even helped prevent cholesterol build-up. They formulated their results very carefully, obviously they had expected something different.
Why is the criticism surrounding coconut oil so persistent?
We have just looked at one reason: the assumption that coconut oil increases the cholesterol in the body – an assumption that proved to be untrue by numerous studies over the years. Another reason is that there are powerful industry interests surrounding edible oils. In the course of better marketing the domestic vegetable oils, a campaign against coconut oil began in America as early as the 1950s, which continues to this day. At the moment there are large-scale rapeseed cultivation projects initiated by Monsanto / Bayer going on. At the same time, more and more scientists (including the lady from the YouTube video) are recommending the consumption of rapeseed oil, which is only suitable to a limited extent as a frying oil, as it should only be heated gently due to its polyunsaturated fatty acids. For this reason, the Bayer Group is currently developing a genetically modified rapeseed oil that is no longer sensitive to heat and can even be used to deep-fry French fries.
Conclusion: Unfortunately, industrial interests can hardly be distinguished from the recommendations issued by scientists, faculties and supposedly independent consumer protection organizations. In addition, the Internet is patient, you will find many theses and often enough few truths. I can only recommend not to believe everything blindly, but to do your own research.
The American Heart Association is not a trustworthy source
The professor in the YouTube post refered to the latest recommendations of the American Heart Association to avoid saturated fatty acids for reasons of heart health. But is it even a trustworthy organization? In fact, the so-called AHA is a non-profit organization. But it receives around $ 800 million in donations a year. And who is among the donors? The well-known pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck and Pfizer. And what do these corporations sell? Statins! These are drugs that lower the cholesterol level – a million dollar business. In America, therefore, the AHA is viewed extremely critically by holistic physicians and nutritionists. Nor was this mitigated by the fact that the AHA issued new recommendations that healthy people with minimally elevated cholesterol should start taking statins from now on. That would be 44 percent of men and 22 percent of women. Big business for the pharmaceutical industry.
So what’s the deal with coconut oil? What can it do that other oils cannot?
As has already been said several times, coconut oil consists largely of saturated fatty acids. However, the fatty acids in coconut oil are pretty special. In contrast to most other saturated fatty acids, those in coconut oil are medium-chain. Medium-chain fatty acids are first of all very easy to digest. They are water-soluble and therefore get straight to the liver via the bloodstream, where they are used to generate energy instead of being stored in fat deposits. In addition, medium-chain fatty acids provide one calorie less per gram than other fatty acids. These two properties mean that coconut oil has a reputation for contributing less to weight gain than other fats and, on the contrary, it can even help with weight loss. In a Japanese diet study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2001, it was found out that medium-chain fatty acids compared to long-chain (polyunsaturated fatty acids) help reduce body weight without losing muscle mass.
Coconut oil is heat stable and protects us from the real culprit: the trans fatty acids
Saturated and (poly) unsaturated fatty acids differ in their heat resistance. Saturated fats such as coconut oil and ghee can be heated to a high temperature without changing their chemical structure. The situation is different with unsaturated fatty acids. The monounsaturated olive oil can be heated up to 180 ° C, but all polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower and rapeseed, safflower, wheat germ, flaxseed and hempseed oil should not be heated, as they change their structure and become trans fatty acids. These promote inflammation in the body and thus all kinds of diseases. They are particularly dangerous because our bodies mistake them for healthy fatty acids and use them as building materials for its cells. As a result, elastic cell membranes suddenly become unflexible and block important cell functions. In order not to accidentally generate trans fatty acids yourself, saturated fatty acids such as – you already guessed it – coconut oil or ghee are best suited for frying.
The unsaturated fatty acids in coconut oil work against viruses, bacteria and fungi
The medium-chain lauric acid in coconut oil alone makes up about 50 percent of its fatty acids. In the human or animal body, the lauric acid is first converted into monolaurin. Monolaurin fends off specially enveloped viruses (e.g. HI, herpes, cytomegalovirus and influenza viruses) in the human and animal organism by dissolving the lipid envelope of the virus and thus inactivating the virus.
Unsaturated fatty acids in coconut oil provide the brain with energy
Studies have shown that coconut oil’s medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) can provide energy to the brain when the glucose supply isn’t working. This is particularly interesting for Alzheimer’s patients who have exactly this problem. The so-called ketones from coconut oil can be used to slow down or improve the development of the disease.
There is no reason to forego natural organic quality coconut oil. After all, it is one of the best oils for baking and cooking because – unlike unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids – it is very heat-resistant. Coconut products have been eaten by peoples of the South Seas for thousands of years who, until recently, were not aware of any of our civilization diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Coconut oil has a positive influence on the metabolism, is less stored in fat deposits than other oils and counteracts harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi. All these effects have been clearly and repeatedly proven by studies over the past 30 years. In general, it is advisable to only consume pure fats and oils in moderation and to eat the original product from which the oil is made more often (for example the meat of the coconut or, in the case of olive oil, the olive). And otherwise: don’t worry, be happy and eat your coconut oil if you like!
And now my question for you: how do you react when you hear in the media that a food that you like to eat and that should actually be healthy is suddenly called a poison? Are you insecure, angry, fearful or do you just hang on to the Internet and look for more information? I look forward to your comment!
Here you will find a few links to studies and interesting articles on the subject:
- An article about one of the latest studies on coconut oil from Cambridge University
- The American holistic doctor Dr. Hyman on coconut oil coverage, the cholesterol myth, and the role of the American Heart Association
- About the American Heart Association
- Dietary Fats and Health: Recommendation in the context of scientific evidence, by Lawrence GD