Seeing Through the Coconut Oil Smokescreen

Is coconut oil a silent killer? Is it a superfood? A cursory Internet search only reveals how entrenched the factions are on either side of this heated debate and serves as a smokescreen to cloud what we really know about the connection between nutrition and good health. So, is coconut oil a silent killer or a superfood? Maybe it is neither or both.

Challenging the Coconut Critics

As the critics of coconut oil point out, it certainly contains a lot of saturated fat. However, saturated fat is not necessarily bad for you. The anti-saturated-fat faction, such as the American Health Association, bases its argument on the premise that low levels of HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood and high levels of LDL (considered bad cholesterol) is a good predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, HDL and LDL are broad categories, each of which contains numerous subtypes, and those subtypes matter a great deal.

For example, LDL can be divided into two categories:

  • Small, high-density LDL particles, which really are bad, can get lodged in compromised arterial walls and cause blood clots. These small LDL particles are even more of a concern when the blood contains high levels of Lipoprotein(a) or Lp(a), which inflames the blood and makes it sticky.
  • Large, low-density LDL particles are less likely to get lodged in the arterial walls, so they do not carry the same risk.

Likewise, HDL has different subtypes, some of which, such as HDL2, remove excess lipids more efficiently than others. What you want is high concentrations of HDL2 and low concentrations of small, high-density LDL particles.

So, yes, saturated fat can raise your cholesterol levels, but it raises it in a good way — increasing HDL and decreasing high-density LDL particles. If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, have them tested, but make sure the tests are ones that break down the HDL and LDL into subtypes. HDL and LDL levels alone tell you very little.

The focus on saturated fat is a smokescreen that hides the real culprit — Continue reading…