Everybody’s talking about coconut oil. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

November 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Nutrition Tips

Short answer is, not really.  Coconut and coconut oil are predominately made up of Saturated fat, the artery clogging fat found in meat and dairy products (think butter).  Saturated fat does not have to be avoided all together but a prudent diet consists of no more than 10% saturated fat.  So why do some ‘experts’ recommending taking loads of coconut oil?

Coconut oil contains more medium chain fatty acids than do other typical forms of dietary saturated fat.  Medium chain fatty acids (when converted to ketones) can be used by the brain for fuel. Your brain typically only uses glucose (blood sugar) for fuel, but with conditions like Parkinson’s disease for example, the brain is not ‘feeding’ itself adequately with this blood sugar and so parts of the brain function less optimally.  Coconut oil, which is made up of about 60% medium chain fatty acids is purported to help.  The only problem is that there are no human studies to date that support this assumption.  That’s not to say good studies have not been done to show positive effects of taking medium chain fatty acids to help fuel the brain, they have – but the results have not been consistent from taking coconut oil (which has less medium chain fatty acids or the chains are not used efficiently enough from this source to show a measurable effect).

So what do I recommend? If you feel comfortable exchanging some other forms of saturated fat in your diet for coconut oil (like replacing your butter or cream with a coconut based product), I’m all ears.  In fact, there might even be some benefit in doing just that.  But just don’t go replacing the other fats (or foods!) in your life with coconut oil without proper nutritional assessment – you may be doing more harm than good.