The Truth Behind This Oil Boom

This is the oil boom that everyone's talking about.

I see it everywhere... in magazines, on the front page of USA Today, and from concerned readers filling up our inbox. But it's probably not the oil boom you're thinking of...

Recently, lots of people have asked if coconut oil is a fat bomb or a miracle cure.

Here's my take: Coconut oil got a bad rap in recent headlines, but folks also overhype the benefits...

Let's start with the latest negative headline: Is coconut oil bad for your heart?

This came out of a report issued by the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA reviewed existing studies and ruled that people should avoid all saturated fat sources (including coconut oil) to prevent heart disease. The reasoning is that saturated fats raise levels of "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL).

Here's the thing: Not all saturated fat is the same. As we wrote in "The Low-Fat Diet Delusion," saturated fats increase inflammation. But part of the problem is that some types of saturated fats are worse than others. Newer research suggests that it depends on how long the carbon chain is. It's one of the reasons coconut oil has caught on, because it is a medium-chain saturated fat. Longer chains tend to have more problems (more on this in a moment).

Remember, natural sources are always better than processed foods. This holds true for saturated fats. So don't cut out foods like avocados, whole milk, and red meat just because of the saturated fats.

In fact, I want to highlight an important passage in the AHA's paper. It starts off by saying people who replaced saturated fats in their diet with unsaturated fats had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Then it adds this:

In contrast to the favorable results of trials using polyunsaturated fat as the replacement macronutrient reported in the same article, the low-fat, high-carbohydrate approach did not significantly reduce CVD events.

In other words, a low-fat, high-carb diet had no benefit for heart health. Carbohydrates like the "white killers" (white bread, white sugar, white rice) all lead to inflammation. Which brings us to our next point...

As we've written over and over, inflammation is the root of heart disease, not "bad" cholesterol. That's why, according to one study, about 50% of people who die from a heart attack had low to normal levels of LDL.

So focusing on LDL levels like the AHA does in this paper doesn't make sense.

In addition, as immunologist Dr. Tania Dempsey recently wrote for Observer, you need to follow the money...

She reported that – as it turns out – the research for that report came from grants by the Canola Oil Council. Which means it also leaves out the fact that canola oil contains erucic acid. That's a very long-chain fatty acid. And according to some animal studies, it also causes heart disease.

So does coconut oil get an unwarranted bad report here? We think so. But we're not about to jump on the miracle-cure ship just yet...

We've seen a few promising studies that suggest coconut oil reduces inflammation in cases of arthritis and bowel disease, but we're still cautious. We want to see more long-term human studies.

Part of the reason so many folks love coconut oil is that it's full of medium-chain fatty acids. These chains can more easily pass through our bodies. Plus, our livers help break them down easier, meaning you gain less weight than with long-chain fats.

But you know what else has medium-chain fatty acids and proven benefits, including reducing inflammation?

Olive oil. (As we discussed last week, it even helps against Alzheimer's.)

The overall point is that you need to replace "bad" fats with "good" ones. Cutting out trans fats and artificial saturated fats will boost health. And adding in lots of mono- and polyunsaturated fats is even more beneficial.

One last point... Coconut oil isn't a good choice for cooking. The "smoke" point when dangerous chemicals form is too low for coconut oil. Regular olive oil is much safer to use when cooking. Read about it right here.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
July 6, 2017