Coconut oil has been in the headlines in recent years for various health reasons. In particular, experts go back and forth debating about whether or not it’s good for cholesterol levels.
Some experts say you should avoid coconut oil because of its high levels of saturated fat (saturated fat is known to raise cholesterol).
Others say that the structure of the fat in coconut oil makes it less likely to add to fat buildup in the body and that, for that reason, it’s healthy.
There are a lot of conflicting reports about whether or not coconut oil can help:
- maintain healthy cholesterol
- lower “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels
- help raise “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels
Research hasn’t been definitive, but there are many facts known about this oil. These may help you choose whether or not to incorporate coconut oil into your diet. Consulting your physician is also a good idea.
Coconut oil is a tropical oil derived from the dried nut of the coconut palm tree. Its nutritional components include the following:
- It contains nearly 13.5 grams of total fat (11.2 grams of which are saturated fat) per tablespoon.
- It also contains about 0.8 grams of monounsaturated fat and about 3.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, which are both considered “healthy” fats.
- It doesn’t contain cholesterol.
- It’s high in vitamin E and polyphenols.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the oil from fresh coconuts contains a high proportion of medium chain fatty acids. These don’t seem to be stored in fat tissue as easily as are long chain fatty acids.
Experts say that coconut oil’s lauric acid, which is a healthy type of saturated fatty acid, is quickly burned up by the body for energy rather than stored. That’s why some people think of coconut oil as a potential weight loss tool.
All types of fat have the same number of calories. It’s only the difference in the fatty acid makeup that makes each fat distinct from the others.
In a 2015 study, researchers found that mice gained less weight when eating a diet high in coconut oil than they did when eating one high in soybean oil. This was the result even though coconut oil contains 91 percent saturated fat to soybean oil’s 15 percent.
More human studies need to be completed to confirm this observation.
In addition to being touted for weight loss benefits, coconut oil has been shown to have other beneficial properties.
It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory characteristics, and it can be easily absorbed into the body for energy.
Another 2015 study found that a combination of daily coconut oil intake and exercise could lower blood pressure and even bring it back to normal values.
Another study compared the effects on cholesterol levels of butter, coconut fat, and safflower oil. The study found that coconut oil was effective at lowering “bad” LDL and triglyceride levels and raising “good” HDL levels.
Despite some research on whether or not coconut oil is helpful for cholesterol levels, the verdict is still out. As it stands, coconut oil isn’t a widely recommended oil for cholesterol health in the way that other oils like olive oil are.
In 2013 guidance, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that coconut oil should be used less often than other healthier oils that have known health benefits, such as olive oil.
This is a swiftly changing field as new studies of dietary oils continue to emerge. We do know that higher intake of saturated fats is associated with cardiovascular disease. Some oils are less safe because of how they’re processed.
It’s good to stay on top of news to see what else is discovered about the effects of coconut oil on cholesterol levels. That will help you get a clearer picture of whether or not coconut oil is something you want to add into your diet.