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Coconut Oil and Heart Disease

There is a misconception common among many people that coconut oil is not good for the heart. Coconut oil and heart disease have been linked together because coconut oil is made up of 90 percent saturated fat, and saturated fat has been demonized as the primary cause of heart disease for the last 50 years or so.

The problem is... this theory just isn't true. The so-called "Lipid Hypothesis" of heart disease was drawn from the conclusions of one researcher back in the 1950's by the name of Ancel Keys. Numerous other studies since then have completely discredited Dr. Keys' study on dietary saturated fats.

See Is Coconut Oil Healthy? to get more details.



In addition to the complete fallacy of saturated fat as a cause of heart disease, there's a significant property of coconut oil that distinguishes it from other sources of saturated fat. Coconut oil is comprised of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides. Research has demonstrated that medium-chain fats in coconut oil actually protect against heart disease — and may one day even be used as a treatment to cure it!

The increase in consumption of polyunsaturated fats has not resulted in an improvement in the rate of heart disease. On the other hand, excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils has been shown to contribute to a large number of disease conditions including cancer and heart disease, immune system dysfunction, damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs, digestive disorders, depressed learning ability, impaired growth, and weight gain.

The difference between saturated and unsaturated fats is not even as great as these two terms imply; every type of fat is made up of both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, although in different proportions. Unsaturated fats (oils) typically contain 10 to 20 percent saturated fatty acids. The saturated fats butter and lard, on the other hand, contain only about 60% and 40% saturated fatty acids, respectively; the rest is mainly monounsaturated fatty acids. Clearly, the term "saturated fat" is misleading.

See What are Essential Fatty Acids? and
Coconut Oil Nutritional Value for more information.


The Saturated Fat Theory
of Heart Disease

Heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which is manifest by the formation of plaque on the artery walls. You have undoubtedly come across the advice to avoid saturated fat; it is supposed to be bad for your heart because it increases serum cholesterol levels. However, high levels of cholesterol don't cause heart disease, and are not even a good indicator of your risk of heart disease.

What causes heart disease — really? According to the latest research, atherosclerosis initially develops as a result of injury to the inner lining of the arterial wall. The injury can be the result of a number of factors such as toxins, free radicals, viruses, or bacteria. If the cause of the injury is not removed, further damage may result. As long as irritation and inflammation persist, your cholesterol will oxidize and form plaque, regardless of what your cholesterol levels are.

Unlike other saturated fats, natural coconut oil tends to increase HDL cholesterol without increasing LDL levels, thus improving your LDL/HDL ratio. The ratio of the LDL to HDL cholesterol is universally recognized as a far more accurate indicator of heart disease risk than is total cholesterol. Coconut oil also reduces the incidence of damage to your arteries and therefore actually helps in preventing atherosclerosis.

People who traditionally consume large quantities of coconut oil as part of their every-day diet have a very low incidence of heart disease, and have normal blood cholesterol levels. This has been well supported by numerous population studies. The research shows that people who consume coconut oil as their primary fat have remarkably good cardiovascular health.

See What Causes Heart Disease? for more details on this topic.


Coconut Oil and Heart Disease
in Eastern Cultures

Heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis account for nearly half of all the deaths in the United States. In countries where people eat a lot of coconut products, cardiovascular disease has traditionally been much less frequent.

In Sri Lanka, for example, where coconut oil has traditionally been the primary dietary fat, the death rate from heart disease has been among the lowest in the world. In recent years, however, coconut oil has been replaced by polyunsaturated oils and margarines. and heart disease rates have risen accordingly.

In areas of India where coconut oil has been largely replaced by other vegetable oils, cardiovascular disease is also on the rise. Researchers involved with studies on diet and heart disease in India are now recommending the return to coconut oil.


How to Use Coconut Oil in Your Diet

There are several ways you can add coconut oil to your everyday life, and it really is easy! Coconut oil is stable even during long periods of storage, and needs no refrigeration. Because its melting point is 76° F, it can be used in both liquid or solid forms. It has a neutral flavor that makes it ideal for use in frying, cooking and baking.

Here are just a few suggestions:

  • use it in any recipe that calls for vegetable oil, shortening or butter
  • it makes a healthy butter replacement on bread or vegetables; if you add a bit of salt to it, you won't be able to tell the difference
  • coconut oil is the best oil for making popcorn; it stands up to high temperatures as well as any other fat
  • use it externally as an oil for your skin, hair care and massage

You can even eat coconut oil right out of the jar. It gives you a quick burst of energy without creating a spike in your blood sugar levels.


Coconut Oil and Smoothies
Make a Great Combo!

One of the easiest ways to add the benefits of coconut oil to your daily routine is by using it as an ingredient in your smoothies. Coconut oil adds a rich, creamy texture to any smoothie recipe, although it may congeal if you add frozen ingredients.

If you haven't discovered the magic of smoothies yet, you might want to consider them. There's no easier way to increase your daily intake of antioxidants than a well-made smoothie.

You can discover how to make a smoothie the healthy way elsewhere on this website.


Recommended Coconut Oil Products

There are several excellent organic coconut oils that I can recommend. Click on any of the images below for more information on any one of them:

Nutiva

Garden of Life

Jarrow

If you want to take a look at a wider selection of coconut oil products, check out the Coconut Oil Store at iHerb.com. There's over 30 different name-brand products to choose from — and buying from iHerb means that you also get all of these benefits as well:

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Read more about coconut oil at other pages on this website:

Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil Nutritional Value

Is Coconut Oil Healthy?

Coconut Oil for Hair

Coconut Oil for the Skin

Coconut Oil for Weight Loss

Main Coconut Oil page


Antioxidants Home Page from Coconut Oil and Heart Disease



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