The claim that coconut oil is bad for you has been widely disproved in many scientific studies and journals. Unfortunately, this perception is still around.
The tropical oils, especially coconut oil, were very popular in the US food industry prior to World War II. However, this all changed in the 1950s even though it had been known for nearly a century that coconut oil is more nutritious than other oils.
Over many decades coconut oil received bad publicity due to its saturated fat content. The US is the largest exporter of soybeans, which is used to produce vegetable oil. A marketing campaign was launched to promote polyunsaturated vegetable oils and attack saturated oils like coconut oil.
The well oiled marketing machinery funded by the soy bean and corn industry and supported by the American Heart Association was committed to change the American Diet, calling for the substitution of saturated fats for polyunsaturated fats.
This change in diet left a legacy which still haunts us today. 40 years on, this conceptual change in the eating habits of Americans has negatively influenced and changed the dietary regimes of societies all around the world.
The American industries were so effective in branding saturated fats as deadly that even small island nations in the South Pacific were converted by this powerful marketing machine to change centuries of dietary traditions of tropical oils to importing polyunsaturated fats of vegetable oils.
Today, heart disease is still on the rise and obesity, linked to this “new” American diet, is a major social problem worldwide that has governments worried about the health care cost of future generations.
Studies were done to show that coconut oil, and all saturated fats, were bad for one's health because they raised serum cholesterol levels. However, these studies were done on hydrogenated coconut oil, and all hydrogenated oils produce higher serum cholesterol levels, whether they are saturated or not.
Recent research shows that it is the presence of trans fatty acids that causes health problems, as they are fatty acid chains that have been altered from their original form in nature by the oil refining process.
Although many studies at the time had also shown research to the contrary, the mud stuck and by the 1960s, the reputation of all saturated oils in America had been destroyed.
Modern research is starting to show that dietary changes based on the evidence presented by these early studies were premature and actually placed the health of millions of people at risk.
The branding of all saturated fats, whether from meat, dairy or vegetable source, as deadly was a big mistake. As a result, one of nature’s most amazing resources, tropical oils, and especially coconut oil, has been lost to modern medicine for decades.
Besides classifying fats based on saturation, there is another system of classification based on molecular size. The smaller the molecule of the fatty acid, the easier the fat is digested and metabolized.
The saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are predominately medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). Both the saturated and unsaturated fat found in meat, milk, eggs, and plants (including almost all vegetable oils) are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) which are bigger in molecular size.
MCFA are very different from LCFA. They do not have a negative effect on cholesterol and help to protect against heart disease. The MCFA in coconut oil are processed in the liver and converted directly into energy, and will thus not be stored as fat. That is why the saturated fat in coconut oil is so good and different from other saturated fats.
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