In order to talk about this, we have to discuss triglycerides. These are the standard “fat” of living organisms. They are comprised of 1 glycerol molecule and 3 fatty acid chains.
Both plant and animal produce triglycerides. Plants typically produce unsaturated (liquid at RT) animal is typically saturated (solid at RT). Triglycerides are classified not only by saturated and unsaturated, but are further divided into fatty acid chain length (Short, Medium and Long), as well as by commonly existing and specifically named chains. (lauric, capric, arachidonic, etc)
What Are HDLs and LDLs?
Also a quick note on HDL and LDLs. Both are digested, absorbed forms of fats. HDLs are high density fats and once absorbed, typically aid in the lowering of cholesterol from blood to the outgoing digestive tract. In contrast, increased LDL concentrations encourage the increased retention of cholesterol and contribute to cardiac diseases.
So What About Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is predominately made of MCT (medium chain Triglycerides). This means the fatty acid chains are 6-12 carbons long. However, it is also possible for the levels of fatty acids in coconut oil to vary. Some samples taken throughout various research studies have reported contents to be higher in lauric acid (a SFA) and others with higher amounts of myristic (LFA) and caprylic (MFA). In the studies that showed higher Lauric acids, HDL concentrations increased with coconut oil consumption, while LDL stayed the same. High Myristic/Caprylic contents have been shown to raised LDL levels.
What Does This Mean?
What this means is, depending on the fatty acid contents of the coconut oil, HDL (healthy fat) levels may raise or LDL (unhealthy fat) levels may raise. Proper, healthy sources are always important.
None of this is new information. No new research has been conducted to show that coconut oil is bad. The American Heart Association simply released information the nutritional side of healthcare already knew and was advising against. High amounts of any kind of fat is bad, when in the presence of high amounts of sugar. If you regularly consume coconut oil, watch your sugar intake. If you regularly consume lots of sugar, stop. Just stop it. It’s bad for you. The human body has 8 hormones to raise blood sugar, and 1 to lower it. We don’t need a constant influx of sugar, the body has a much easier time moderating blood sugar levels with minimal sugar, than it does with excessive.
Fats are healthy, as long as a healthy diet is maintained. Moderation is key.
Dietary fats are an excellent form of long term energy for the body. Fats are much more dense than sugar, and can readily be converted to energy within the body, when necessary. Healthy sources of fats are fairly easily understood. Free range, grass fed animals have high amounts of saturated fat in their meat, but this fat is remarkably healthy for you. Similar to the fats found in fish and plants. Coconut oil is no different. If they are grown naturally and consumed in moderation, the fat can be healthily consumed, risk free.
If any of these sources are altered, or the consumer’s diet is poor, then even the best sources can be made poor. Healthy fats aren’t safe to consume with a high sugar diet.
The AHA study that was released also noted that most studies conducted on coconut oil consumption, has been done on indigenous people, who consume the whole raw coconut, not just the modern version of the refined oil. The refining process may alter the quality of the oil some, but those studies, to my knowledge, have not been done.
The other important note is that indigenous people are also not going to have the high sugar diet that most Americans have. This further demonstrates how nutritional studies can be very complex to properly understand, and are complex to take into consideration.