The crunchy world was rocked Friday when the American Heart Association released a report regarding studies of saturated fat and cholesterol. But this report also included a portion of specific analysis regarding coconut oil — repeating the same things we’ve been told for at least the last decade, but using different words that caused people to lose their ever-loving minds.
If you haven’t heard about it yet, I applaud you for your ability to avoid social media this long. In short, they restated that excessive amounts of saturated fat in your diet are bad. The problem is that the media immediately zeroed in on the coconut oil portion of the report, and it sounded a whole lot like demonizing coconut oil to those who swear by it.
And people everywhere said “FUCK YOU, SCIENCE! This is BULLSHIT! Fake news! Fake news!”
Now, to be perfectly clear, first things first: This has nothing to do with using coconut oil for cosmetic purposes. If you’re using it to remove makeup or as a hair masque, you’re fine. If you’re using it for a skin moisturizer, you might want to talk to a dermatologist about that because opinions differ there and I’m not getting into that right now. But still, this isn’t for you either. Or you guys over there using it for lube. Ahem. Anyway, so yeah, this is only regarding the ingestion of coconut oil.
Secondly, can we all have a moment of silence for the death of non-clickbait headlines? The most commonly shared one on my feed was the story from USA Today that shouted “Coconut Oil Isn’t Healthy. It’s Never Been Healthy.” Oh dear. Is it any wonder that people immediately lost their shit?
A concerning quote from that article states, “Researchers didn’t see a difference between coconut oil and other oils high in saturated fat, like butter, beef fat and palm oil. In fact, 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, according to the data — far beyond butter (63%), beef fat (50%) and pork lard (39%).”
Translation: There is twice as much saturated fat in coconut oil than in pork lard.
I’ll give you a moment to digest that, all the puns intended.
Let’s break this down. Coconut oil is not any more or any less healthy today than it was yesterday. Okay? No one is changing the rules on you, and no one is presenting anything new here. The thing is, information has not changed regarding the amount of saturated fat in coconut oil. Incredibly fatty substances are bad to ingest in large amounts. Shocker! Except it’s not shocking at all because we knew the fat content in coconut oil is super high. You knew that, right? I’m sure you did. And if you weren’t already aware of its nutritional content, I’m not sure why you thought putting it in your coffee would help you lose weight, but let’s not get derailed with a little thing like facts.
Specifically, the report states as part of its purpose, “In the past few years, meta-analyses of observational studies and randomized clinical trials have come to discordant conclusions about the relationship between dietary saturated fat and risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease). This has created confusion among patients, their physicians, and the public. In this article, we analyze and discuss the methodology and interpretation of results reported by these researchers and the reasons for the divergent findings.”
Information also has not changed on how much saturated fat the AHA recommends you should have in your diet. Saturated fat is still saturated fat, and the guidelines for how much or how little you should ingest daily are still the same as they were before this study. The studies being reported on simply refer to cholesterol levels, the way saturated fat raises both HDL and LDL (commonly called “good” and “bad”) cholesterol, and provide a more detailed breakdown of the saturated fat content and its effects on said cholesterol in a more comprehensive analysis of previous studies.
This is not a conspiracy between the AHA and Big Pharma to take away your woo and kill us all through heart disease. This is not a case of “Well, one minute the government says this is bad, and the next minute, they’re saying it’s good for you! One minute, they tell us it’s a superfood, and the next, it’s poison! I can’t keep up! REMEMBER THE EGGS?!”
Yes, Sharon, we all remember the eggs.
The AHA is presenting information. It’s not even new information. It’s just a more detailed analysis of previous information that was already studied. If you have questions or concerns about your cholesterol and the effect of coconut oil in your diet, I suggest you speak to your cardiologist before you give yourself a high-blood-pressure rage headache because of this report.
The AHA doesn’t recommend coconut oil as a health food. This is not the end of the world. They also don’t recommend real butter or pork fat, but you will pry my butter and lard out of my cold fat hands after I eat all the amazing things.
I’m personally a superfan of coconut oil in its place for all sorts of things — but there’s the rub. It has its place. Moderation is the key, just like it’s always been. If you’re not sitting around eating tubs of lard (or coconut oil, which is apparently worse), I think you’ll be okay.
*Please note: I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, or a scientist of any kind. I wasn’t kidding about speaking to your doctor. Facebook isn’t really where you should be getting your health advice, anyway. Stop that.