Years ago, researchers placed rats on a diet that was high in coconut oil. Soon the researchers noticed that the cholesterol levels were becoming elevated and by the study’s end, the rats had developed plaques in the arteries consistent with heart disease.
Soon, the media was reporting that saturated fat, found in coconut oil, was the cause of our heart disease epidemic. There was one problem, however; the study wasn’t about coconut oil…
What Happens to Rats Who Are Deficient in Essential Fatty Acids?
When the researchers set out to study the rats, their intention was to study what happens to rats that become deficient in essential fatty acids such as, omega-6 and omega-3 fats. To do this, the researchers had to use a fat that was devoid of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. The problem was, most fats that are totally devoid of essential fatty acids are hard to incorporate into rat chow. In fact, the researchers couldn’t find a fat in nature that was totally devoid of essential fatty acids…so they manufactured one.
It Looks Like Coconut Oil & Tastes Like Coconut Oil, But…
Of all of the fats that the researchers evaluated for the study, coconut oil was closest to the ideal oil. Unfortunately, natural coconut oil contains a small quantity of essential fats, which the researchers had to remove in order to make sure the rats became totally depleted of EFAs. To achieve this, the researchers developed hydrogenated coconut oil, a coconut oil that is flooded with hydrogen in order to remove all EFAs. There was one problem…
Hydrogenation Produces Trans-fats!
During the course of the study, the researchers were setting up the perfect storm for heart disease to develop…They were inducing an essential fatty acid deficiency and simultaneously flooding the rat’s body with trans-fats, which are known to promote high cholesterol and heart disease!
Right Observation…Wrong Finding
The researchers concluded that essential fatty acid deficiency leads to high cholesterol and heart disease. The media concluded that eating coconut oil causes high cholesterol and heart disease…
They Were Both Wrong!
Well, they were both only partially right. Essential fatty acid deficiency probably does cause heart disease, but this study only proves that EFA deficiency along with supplementation with trans-fats causes heart disease. The media was also partially right, eating coconut oil does cause high cholesterol and heart disease, but only if it is hydrogenated coconut oil, full of trans-fats, in combination with an EFA deficient diet.
They rightly observed that feeding rats coconut oil led to heart disease, but they wrongly deduced that the coconut oil was to blame. In fact, it was the hydrogenation of coconut oil and the EFA deficiency that ultimately led to catastrophic problems.
Natural Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil is Healthy!
In 1992, researchers performed a review of the published research on coconut oil. They concluded that unadulterated coconut oil did not cause elevated cholesterol nor did it cause an increased risk of heart disease (Philippine Journal of Internal Medicine 30:165-171;1992.)
In 1994, researchers added natural, unadulterated coconut oil to the diets of men with normal cholesterol. By the study’s end, their cholesterol increased from 166.7 to 170.0 mg/dl, however, the bad cholesterol came down a little while the good cholesterol went up a little. By the study’s end, the men enjoyed a healthier cholesterol balance. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 59:841-846;1994.)
In 1991, researchers fed 83 men and women a diet that was comprised of 24% fat, of which 75% came from coconut oil. By the study’s end, the total cholesterol went up by 17%, however, the bad cholesterol came down while the good cholesterol increased by 21.4%!
This is a small sampling of the scientific evidence that proves coconut oil to be safe and healthy cooking oil.
Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil is the Healthiest of ALL Cooking Oil
In this video, I explain why coconut oil is the best cooking oil compared to canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and corn oil.
Where to Get Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil
There are many brands of extra-virgin coconut oil on the market. I personally use the Nutiva Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil in my cooking, which is available in our online store.
How to Choose a Good Coconut Oil
As I mentioned, there are many good brands of extra-virgin coconut oil on the market:
- Only choose extra-virgin coconut oil – Extra-virgin means that you are getting unadulterated and unrefined coconut oil.
- Organic is Not Essential – Because coconuts are not typically sprayed with pesticides, it is not essential that it be organic.
- It should be a white-solid at room temperature – Pure extra-virgin coconut oil is a white, soft, solid at room temperature. It will turn to a clear liquid at temperatures slightly above room temperature.
- It should be lightly aromatic – In other words, it should smell like a coconut
- It should have a mild and pleasant flavor – It is from coconut, so it does have a bit of a coconut flavor to it. If it is not right for your recipe, then use extra-virgin olive oil as an alternative.
Extra-virgin coconut oil is a safe and healthy oil to use in cooking and you should enjoy this oil without fear of heart disease or high cholesterol. Due to its mild, coconut flavor, it may not be appropriate for all recipes. If coconut oil doesn’t work for your recipe, then turn to organic butter as a second option followed by extra-virgin olive oil.