Coconut oil is believed by some to be one of those magical foods that will make you younger, smarter, healthier and better looking – at least in theory.
How do these things get going? Coconut oil has Dr. Onge to thank. She is a Cornell University professor who studied medium chain fatty acids in 2003. She did not use coconut oil, but a diet of 100% medium chain fatty acids.
Coconut oil is 14 to 50-plus percent medium chain fatty acids. They are Caprylic acid, Lauric acid and Capric acid if you like Latin. Her study on medium chain fatty acids showed some weight loss and no LDL increase. These medium chain fatty acids are easily digested and do not readily become fat.
Thus, the next miracle food was launched.
It doesn’t take 30 seconds on the Internet to find articles giving the top 10 or 20 great things coconut oil can do for your health (we call that “click bait”).
Here are a few examples.
- Alzheimer’s “natural” treatment
- Prevents heart disease
- Cures urinary infections, prevents kidney disease and protects the liver
- Reduces inflammation and arthritis
- Cancer prevention and treatment
So, perhaps we have found the “fountain of youth.” But not so fast. The American Heart Association says that consuming coconut oil can give you a heart attack. Who can you believe?
Coconut oil is high in saturated fat (92%) – higher than butter, beef or pork fat. Highly saturated fats are solids at room temperature and tend to be solid in the walls of your coronary arteries. That’s not good!
Coconut oil has always claimed to be the exception to the “saturated fat kills” theory. Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) are the reason. Those (MCFA) by themselves are harmless and even make a clean-burning fuel. It’s the moral equivalent of having a tiger in your tank. But MCFA are only half of the fat in coconut oil. The rest is saturated and causes heart disease.
In general, anything claiming to benefit a dozen organs, makes you younger and both prevent and treat cancer is totally ridiculous. There is no magic molecule that can transform itself to fit so many different functions. You have taken your entire daily allotment of saturated fat with just one tablespoon of coconut oil.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
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