Monday, May 14, 2012

Coconut Oil: Beneficial or Just a Fad?

And so it begins, another trendy weight loss tool, or is it?

Coconut oil has recently gained popularity as a tool to improve heart health, thyroid function, the rate of metabolism, and immune funtion. Just one teaspoon of this oil contains a whopping 12 grams of saturated fat, which is the type of fat that is known to be converted into cholesterol in the body. Just because of that one detail, I was immediately skeptical of this new fad.

After doing a little bit of research on this topic, it seems that the evidence is quite weak in supporting the claims listed above. Before we throw out the copious knowledge that we have gained over the years about the dangers of saturated fat, I think we will need a lot more convincing.

Keep in mind that the American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program still recommend limiting saturated fat to no more than 7%-10% of total calories. For instance, if you are consuming an 1800 calorie diet, that would limit you to 14-20 grams of saturated fat daily. Two teaspoons of coconut oil would exceed the limit for the entire day!

Another point to remember is that you will always win with a diet very high in fruits in vegetables. They contain an unmatchable variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are known to decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. They also contain fiber which tends to help people control their body weight, stabalize blood sugar, and decrease cholesterol levels. If you're looking for something in your diet to really increase, start chomping down on all of your seasonal favorite fruits and vegetables!


  1. Hey Erin,

    You may want to check this out:

    Completely changed my mind after reading that.


  2. Hi Carol,
    Thank you so much for reading and for your comment! I really appreciate the link.

    I would like to warn you and others to always be skepitcal of a website that is promoting a product that it is also trying to sell you. They will say anything to get you to buy their product. In fact, I found a few chemistry errors on this page that are really big signs that whoever wrote this has gaps in their knowledge. For instance, trans-fat was referred to as hydrogenated fat. It is actually partially-hydrogenated which is a big difference. Hydrogenated fats are saturated while partially-hydrogenated are unsaturated.

    Another really important reason to be skeptical is because this website uses testimonials to sell their product. That is another big red flag that this product may not be all it says it is. Clear science is the best way to be sure that a certain nutrient is helpful or harmful, not testimonials. People tend to buy products that "increase their metabolism" and then they change their diet or exercise too. Any time you reduce your intake of calories or increase your output of calories, you will lose weight. I have talked to many clients/patients over the years who have tried products to increase their metabolism, but the truth is, good old-fashioned healthy eating is the most effective way to lose weight.

    The website also discusses lauric acid and its benefits for the immune system. There are many other ways to be sure that your immune system is in good shape other than consuming this saturated fat. You are better off exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting the right amount of sleep than to consume a fat that could send you into an early grave.

    If you go back and read my review of the China Study, and Dr. Esselstyn's book, you will see that there is a group of doctors out there that really promote almost no fat in the diet. There are always going to be a few people who pick up one or two weak research articles and run with it.

    Thanks again for reading and bringing this website to my attention!

  3. I can say this about coconut oil: I recently started adding it to my morning shake before I workout and I have noticed that I do experience more energy and perform better while exercising. Perhaps that is psychological, but I can't complain about the extra boost wherever it comes from!