Last week we published "How To Make Spicy Thai Curry" which featured coconut milk as an ingredient. Since the saturated fat of coconut milk is high, we linked to a piece we wrote a few months ago called "Is Coconut Bad For You Because It Contains Saturated Fat."
We had written this piece in response to someone saying they had removed coconut milk from our PEERtrainer Energy Soup recipe at the suggestion of a cardiologist friend who had said that "the saturated fat in coconut is bad for you."
In this piece we had presented the views of Dr. Jonny Bowden, a well known author and nutritionist. Bowden has argued strongly that this view of coconut was incorrect. A long time PEERtrainer member left a comment last week challenging his view on this subject:
"Unfortunately, if Dr Bowden is asserting that Pacific Islanders have low rates of obesity related disease, the evidence does not back this up. Studies among Hawaiian and Samoan Pacific Islanders indicate that they have among the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the world. There is also published research that coconut oil can cause an immediate increase in LDL, (bad), cholesterol after ingestion. I have not read Dr Bowden's book so can't comment further without knowing what research he relies on but until more solid research is available, I would proceed with caution with this saturated fat. For now, the evidence in support of olive oil as part of a mediterranean type diet is much more compelling."
We reached out to Dr. Bowden and asked if he would like to respond. Here is his response:
"The studies you are talking about are more recent, and were done since the introduction of western fast food restaurants and the adoption of more Westernized diets.
Studies going back to the early 80's on the Trobriand Islanders when they ate their native diet show quite the opposite result. In these studies, virtually 80% of calories in the native diet came from coconut and coconut products and the rate of heart disease was almost unmeasurably low. (ref: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7270479).
As far as saturated fat' (from coconut oil or any other source) raising LDL, you have to realize that saturated fat also raises HDL, usually more than it does LDL, resulting in a somewhat improved lipid profile. Much more important is the fact that we now know that LDL is not a single, homogenous molecule. There are at least 6 different subtypes of LDL, and not all of them are "bad".
Saturated fat will raise LDL, but it often raises the more harmless type of LDL particles (called pattern A) and lowers the more athrogenic particles (pattern B).
Your LDL may be higher, but your lipid profile is improved. (This often happens with low-carb diets, but that's a different subject.) Moreover, recent research on coconut oil and obesity showed that coconut oil actually raised HDL and lowered LDL as well as reduced abdominal obesity.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid and capryllc acid, both, known to be anti-microbal. Most of the saturated fat in it is actually MCT (medium chain triglycerides) which the body tends to use as energy rather than to store as fat.
While the reader is correct that there's a lot of support for olive oil as a healthy oil (which it is), that doesn't mean that coconut oil isn't an excellent addition to your kitchen (along with almond oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, macademia nut oil, and other healthy unrefined oils).
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS
Board Certified Nutrition Specialist
Nutrition Editor, Pilates Style
Editorial Advisory Board: Men's Health Magazine
Columnist Clean Eating, Better Nutrition, AOL
Author: "150 Healthiest Foods on Earth", "The Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy", "Living Low Carb: Controlled Carbohydrate Eating for Long Term Weight Loss","The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer"
Follow me on twitter.com/jonnybowden Become a fan on Facebook: Dr. Jonny Bowden
Coconut oil maybe the healthiest fat on the planet. It has been shown to increase thyroid function and the medium chain triglycerides are also great for stabilizing blood sugar which with the ever increasing rates of type 2 diabetes is really important. Plus it's a natural anti-fungal and seems to help with cognitive function in the aging population. I encourage anyone that's on the fence to give it an honest shot and incorporate it into their diets.
Posted by: Cornelius Chiropractor- Dr. John | February 08, 2011 at 10:07 AM
Video from a lady with a masters in nutrition
coconut oil is great for you...try buying the white young coconuts and drinking the water inside and putting it in your smoothies...in world war two they used coconut water in place of blood for transfusions in emergency situations...the more you read about it the more you will see its benefits...coconut water is big in the raw food movement
Posted by: SteveB | December 27, 2010 at 10:30 AM
Excellent debate. I have read a little bit about coconut oil. I began making and eating coconut butter mostly because people raved about how good it is. I do enjoy it, and occasionally use coconut oil instead of butter, but I was not expecting any sort of result (like better thyroid function) because I was not willing to ingest anywhere near the amount they suggested as being therapeutic. I can't say that it caused me to lose any weight, but I have found it immensely satisfying, really sates my hunger, and suddenly I am no longer freezing all the time. That alone (and the taste) is worth it to me.
Posted by: Shauna | December 15, 2010 at 11:15 PM
sooooo I bought 'low fat Coconut Milk' for the super soup from the peer trainer....should I use that ? .....or go back and get the full fat version.
Posted by: Mary Lou Roberts | December 15, 2010 at 09:12 PM
I love coconut oil and it kicks carb cravings more than anything I've ever encountered... PLUS it helps to control my insulin levels. Between coconut oil and IF I have lost 15 pounds in 6 months. The 6 months prior to that, I was exercising myself to death and counting everything that went in my mouth and I gained and lost the same 3 pounds every week and might have wound up 2-3 pounds to the good at the end. I do have insulin resistance and PCOS however, so I know that is a huge factor. Hope this helps someone! :) Heather
Posted by: Heather | December 13, 2010 at 11:50 AM