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Coconut oil – Does it live up to the health claims?

Coconut oil is being touted as a health-promoting oil. Everywhere you look, there are claims about it healing disease and even promoting weight loss, but are any of these claims really true?

Coconut oil is acclaimed as a health food because it contains medium chain fatty acids (MCTs). These fatty acids are digested quickly and may not cause the same damage to the cardiovascular system that short and long-chain fatty acids do. However, only 10 per cent of the fatty acids in coconut oil are MCTs. The other 90 per cent of fatty acids in coconut oil are saturated fat.

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If you weren’t aware already, saturated fat is the leading cause of high blood cholesterol that is linked to heart disease. Butter, which is usually demonised has much lower saturated fat content (63 per cent) than coconut oil. Besides, while the MCTs in coconut oil may increase HDL (good) cholesterol, they also increase LDL (bad) cholesterol.

To date, no scientific research has been able to conclusively show that coconut oil reduces brain damage, lowers cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease or even promotes weight loss.

So should you stop using coconut oil altogether? Probably not. Coconut oil could be an alternative in recipes that call for lard or sold vegetable oils. But replacing all of the fat in your diet with coconut oil is not a good idea. It will not be of benefit to your waistline, heart or brain. Stick with the recommended guideline of keeping fat intake to no more than 30 per cent of your diet and saturated fat to a maximum of 7 per cent.

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You should only eat small amount of coconut oil occasionally and not every day as certain ‘health gurus’ will have you believe.


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