Google "coconut oil" and you’ll see this popular product touted for a range of uses: from cooking to its use as a health food to treat a variety of illnesses. But does coconut oil live up to those claims?
Sharon Cox, a dietitian with Parkland Hospital System, talks about this in our consumer health series, Vital Signs.
From Sharon Cox’s interview…
Dietary value in coconut oil: “It would add a large source of calories and, also, saturated fat. We don’t want to have a large amount or percentage of that because that increases our cholesterol level, which increases the risk for coronary artery disease. For some who have problems with losing weight and absorbing certain foods or calories, it would provide them with a good source of calories. The saturated fat in coconut oil, and any saturated fat, has lauric acid, but again, you would need to know the amount to take to get that benefit. Lauric acid is a medium-change triglyceride and it provides a source of energy or calories. But it has been researched and found to help your good cholesterol – the HDL. It also increases your LDL – your bad cholesterol. If you wanted to increase your HDL, you wouldn’t know how much to take to just increase the good cholesterol. You would also increase the bad cholesterol.”
Any evidence backing its use as treatment for conditions ranging from acne to Alzheimers Disease: “Not currently. With coconut oil or any claims you would get from a dietary supplement, you would have to know the dose of it, similar to your prescription medicine: Do you take a teaspoon every day or a tablespoon? How long would you need to take it to help with Alzheimers or a bacterial infection? There is no scientific research or evidence-based information now.”
Would you be better off eating whole coconut? “As a snack, a small amount would be fine.
Coconut butter? “That’s still the saturated fat. It’s still calories. It’s good for your skin and for your hair.”
Healthier alternatives to coconut oil for cooking: “One with less saturated fat. We’re looking at any from olive oil to canola oil would be good heart healthy oils. We want more of the monounsaturated fats than the saturated fat. That causes our bad cholesterol to go up.
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