Please note: This post was written three years ago, and there may be more current research on coconut oil.
There is a great divide between holistic medicine and western medicine, and the same can be said for the study of nutrition. Disagreements are often made on food groups, and one such example under debate is coconut oil.
Once eschewed for its high saturated fat content, coconut oil is now regaled as being a healthy fat alternative to olive oil. Where does the truth lie? Can we suddenly forget that coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat?
The Truth about Coconut Oil
Pure virgin coconut oil contains about 92% saturated fat, which coincidentally is a lot higher than butter, which rings in at about 64% saturated fat. Like butter, coconut oil also tends to be a solid at room temperature. What then sets it apart from animal based fats?
The saturated fat in coconut oil is made up of medium chain triglycerides, which could have a different effect than other types of saturated fat. Coconut oil is a blend of fatty acids and is made up primarily of lauric and myristic fatty acids, which have a high number of carbon atoms (12). Medium chain triglycerides require more energy to break down than short chain. Although it is extremely high in saturated fat, it contains no cholesterol, which puts it a leap ahead of animal fats such as lard and butter.
What’s unique about coconut oil is that it not only raises LDL cholesterol levels (it has to with all that saturated fat), but it also raises HDL cholesterol or “good” cholesterol. This differs from butter and ghee, which mainly raise LDL cholesterol. That being said, coconut oil is still extremely caloric and high in saturated fat, meaning moderation is the key. Furthermore, There have been no comprehensive studies on the effect of coconut oil on heart disease. All in all, coconut oil ranks higher than butter, but I wouldn’t trade it for olive oil just yet.