With constantly conflicting messages in the media, there is much confusion around nutrition and health topics among the public. Coconut oil is the latest superfood being promoted by “health gurus” for its magical health benefits. However, health organisations do not recommend regular use of coconut oil, due to its high saturated fat content.
So, does this type of oil live up to the hype or is it merely just a food fad?
Virgin coconut oil contains approximately 86% saturated fat which is the highest saturated fat containing oil. Current UK guidelines recommend no more than 11% of total energy should come from saturated fat. It has been accepted for some time that saturated fat increases cholesterol, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Coconut oil is mainly composed of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) compared to other saturated fats such as butter or lard which are made up of long chain triglycerides (LCTs). MCTs are absorbed directly to the liver unlike LCTs which follow the lymphatic system. This means the amount of free MCTs in the blood is low reducing fatty acid depositions. However, the evidence supporting the use of MCTs for health benefits are not directly related to the MCTs found in coconut oil and therefore it is unclear whether it has the same effect.
Overall, evidence supporting the use of coconut oil for heart health is limited to animal studies and a small number of human studies with limitations. We recommend that you use it in moderation. Extra virgin olive oil is the best choice for your heart. There is definite evidence to support the long-term benefits of olive oil on health. It contains a much higher quantity of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which lower inflammation and improve cholesterol.