The following was in response to an article which appeared in the Media today:
Using the phrase ‘coconut oil is pure poison’ is extreme and also misleading. Poison is a damaging phrase to use for any food, which isn’t actually a poison. Consuming coconut oil isn’t going to cause illness or death when consumed.
These kinds of statements cause fear and unease amongst the general public, and also distrust when there is conflicting information.
It’s not black and white when talking about food and one thing is not bad and the other good. Labelling foods in this way, is not a healthy perspective. Using phrases like ‘one of the worse foods you can eat’, and ‘pure poison’, doesn’t help when trying to assist the public with their relationship with food.
Alongside a healthy balanced lifestyle with the inclusion of other fats like olive oil, avocado oil, nuts and seeds, and the inclusion of physical activity there is nothing wrong with consuming coconut oil - as with everything it is within moderation.
So often in the media, we’re exposed to a mixture of conflicting results from research on so many products, such as coffee and wine - one day an extra glass of red wine shortens your life, and the next it can help you live longer!
To understand coconut oil, we need to look at how it’s broken down:
Of the MCFA, this is broken down between:
15% Caprylic and Capric acid and 48.1% Lauric acid.
A BBC study looked into the effects of coconut oil on cholesterol. This was a small-scale study with participants with no known history of cancer, cvd, diabetes or on any lipid lowering medication. Participants either consumed 50g daily of coconut oil, olive oil, or butter for 1 month. The results:
Again, this was only a small scale study, but interesting to see the difference, even though both butter and coconut oil are predominantly saturated fats but had different health outcomes. So, we should still be aware of our saturated fat intake, but importantly where it actually comes from.
When looking at cooking with oils, it’s worth considering how they are affected by heat. Using oils such as sunflower oil, a polyunsaturated fat, has been shown to oxidise quicker and produce higher amounts of aldehydes, than that of coconut oil, a saturated fat, or olive oil which is predominantly a monounsaturated fatty acid.
Today’s article also stated that coconut oil contains no fibre, no cholesterol, only traces of vitamins and minerals and plant substances too low to have a positive effect on health. To put this into perspective we need to consider other oils too, such as olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil and sunflower oil because as fats they will also not contain any fibre.
Another factor to consider is the difference in quality of oils, as well. As with olive oil, there are differences in coconut oils. You’ll find cold pressed, extra virgin/virgin coconut oil, along with hydrogenated coconut oil and also Refined Bleached and Deodorised (RBD) coconut oil, which undergoes high heat, bleaching and deodorising to make it fit for human consumption.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research on coconut oil and, as always, more does need to be done, with larger number of participants and also the duration of the studies.
We always recommend doing your own research, not just around this but any food that you consume, and check who has funded the research, which will put you in the position of being able to make your own informed decision. As with everything, there will always be conflicting information and thoughts from individuals.
Coconut oil isn’t a silver bullet which will cure anything, but it is perfectly acceptable to consume in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet. This includes making sure you get your 30g/d fibre in, staying hydrated, getting your 5 portions of fruit and veg and staying physically active. Focusing on one food alone isn’t going to help, it’s better to have a whole food approach.
About Lucy Bee Limited
Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
Members of the Lucy Bee team are not medically trained and can only offer their best advice. Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Please note you should always refer your health queries to a qualified medical practitioner.
Daisy has a Master's Degree in Public Health Nutrition, which is Association for Nutrition (AFN) accredited. She, also, has a BSc degree in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience; and has completed an AFN accredited Diet Specialist Nutrition course. She is Lucy's sister and is the Lucy Bee voice on all aspects of nutrition and its effect on the body. In addition to this, Daisy is shadowing a nutritionist in Harley Street and working for an NHS funded project, The Diabetes Prevention Programme.