I have been seeing an article spreading like wildfire across social media, and I'm here to debunk this misinformation with some truth. The article by Robin Andrews at IFLScience compares the impacts of coconut oil to that of beef fat or butter. His piece focuses on saturated fats, cholesterol, and cardiovascular health. Let me be clear.
Coconut oil is NOT as bad for you as butter or beef.
Let's begin with the basics. Fats are an essential part of the cellular membrane, the phospholipid bilayer surrounding each individual cell. The membrane is influenced by the fats eaten in our diet: we literally are what we eat. A high intake of saturated fats can tighten the membranes, reducing the cell's ability to take in nutrients and remove cellular waste. Yes, coconut oil, butter, and beef are all high in saturated fats. However, coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides which the body rapidly burns as fuel. In moderation, these fats are rapidly metabolized by the body and give you more energy over time.
One factor to consider is the concept of bioaccumulation. As you move up the food chain, chemicals become concentrated in the adipose tissues of animals. The majority of cattle are fed highly processed grains (and other slop), often that are genetically modified and highly sprayed with pesticides like RoundUp (which, by the way, has been confirmed to be carcinogenic). FUN FACT: the production of milk requires fat cells to liquefy, thus releasing these chemicals into the milk to be passed on to the calf (or more likely, humans consuming the milk and other dairy products). Similarly, you will also find these harmful chemicals in the muscle tissues that are also being consumed as meat. Cows need lots of food to sustain themselves, and are therefore ingesting tones of these harmful chemicals, which are then stored in fat cells in the body.
As far as cooking goes, you are better off cooking with coconut oil than any other fat available, especially when high heat is involved. Based on the chemical structure of saturated fats, they are extremely stable when heated and are not prone to conversion to trans fats. Other oils listed in Andrew's article, like sunflower oil, are rich in omega 3 and omega 6, which are prone to rancidity and conversion to trans fats when heated. So you would be hard pressed to discover that frying in refined oils or heating oils to high temperatures can seriously damage the oils. It is better to use saturated fats for high heat, and use cold pressed oils for salads, smoothies, etc. You can also use virgin olive oil for cooking at low temperatures as it is less prone to rancidity (rich in omega 9).
The article also discussed the role of saturated fats and raising of cholesterol. It is EXTREMELY important to understand the role cholesterol plays in the human body. Cholesterol maintains integrity of cellular membranes, is the backbone for all steroid hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, aldosterone, cortisol), and works to protect the body from oxidative damage.
When cholesterol is raised it is important to look at the root. For example, is the individual exposed to free radicals? Free radicals damage our cell membranes which are then patched by plasma, cholesterol, and other blood proteins while the tissues heal themselves. Free radical exposure can also increase cholesterol in the cell membrane to tighten the membrane and protect DNA from oxidative damage. Is the individual over-stressed? The body might be making more cholesterol to pump up the cortisol production - i.e. the bodies long term stress hormone. Is there a hormonal imbalance? The person may have high cholesterol to increase hormone production - this is especially common in women of menopausal age as their adrenal glands pick up the slack to make the hormones their ovaries are no longer producing.
Every single cell in your body is programmed to make cholesterol. Even if you are eating a plant based diet, your cholesterol levels will increase or decrease based on the needs of your body. It is one of your body's primary protective mechanisms, providing we are treating our bodies appropriately. And did I mention you will only find cholesterol in animal and animal-derived products?
PLEASE friends I urge you to do your research before falling victim to misinformation.
In love & light,