You probably know that saturated fats are bad fats that can cause all kinds of heart related diseases. Did you know that and the humble coconut oil has 92% saturated fats? Then why is it that there are many advocates of taking coconut oil as a health supplement? Isn't that contradictory?
Supporters of virgin coconut oil argue that coconut oil helps them to improve skin condition, have more energy and even to lose weight. Huh? consuming saturated fats to lose weight? How is that possible?
These advocates hail the virgin coconut oil as one of the hottest new nutritional supplement to hit the health and nutrition industry in years. This logic flies against conventional wisdom, isn't it?
Saturated fat and there are plenty of it in coconut oil has been the villain for heart diseases. When hydrogenated vegetable fat (trans fat) was invented like in margarine, it was supposed to replace unhealthy saturated fat like in butter and was thought to be a healthier form of fat only until it was discovered in the last few years that trans fat is more dangerous to your heart health than saturated fat.
It is with this thinking that proponents of coconut fats is now arguing that not all forms of saturated fat may be bad and the coconut oil may be one of them. Dr. Bruce Fife, a US based naturopath and author of "The Coconut Oil Miracle" remarked during a press conference in Singapore last month, "Not all saturated fatty acids act in the same way. The fat in coconut oil is different from most other fats and has many health giving properties".
He further added that, "The Lauric acid (I coconut oil) boosts immunity, has antioxidant properties and is being investigated in reducing viral load in HIV patients. You should also take into account the size of the carbon chain in the fatty acid. Most of the oils and fats we consume are long-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil is the richest source of medium-chain fatty acids, which actually behave very differently from the long-chain versions."
"Medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil boost the body's metabolic rate and promote weight loss. They are broken down immediately in the liver to produce energy and are not stored as fat," he added.
So is the consumption of coconut fats good or bad for health? It's very controversial isn't it?
Let's hear it from another expert Dr Annie Leong, deputy director of the nutrition department at the Health Promotion Board. "There is not enough evidence to prove that medium-chain saturated fats can reduce heart risk."
Nutritionist Anna Jacob argued that, "Kerala is the coconut capital of India and it also has the highest rates of heart disease. While it is possible to argue that Indians are genetically predisposed to heart disease, but a diet high in saturated fat as well could heighten that risk."
My question is that since Indians are more prone to heart disease, then the high rates of heart disease should be spread evenly throughout India and not just in Kerala, don't you think so? Therefore, I am still a little skeptical.
So who is right and who is wrong? So is coconut oil saturated fat good or bad for your heart health? Well, the jury is still out there as far as I am concerned. I for one will make a conscious effort to avoid consuming coconut oil too often until the coconut debate is more conclusive with empirical evidence that the coconut oil is good for heart health.