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Coconut Oil – Duct Tape for the Broken Metabolism

Coconut oil can be found in just about every grocery store, health food store and coffee shop near you.  It was made popular in the last few years by the highly advertised Bullet Proof Coffee claims of health and taste over the last few years.  But in the last few days, the news outlets through video and print have made it clear that the American Heart Association (AHA) isn’t happy with our use of this “duct tape for one’s metabolism.” The AHA has long been a proponent of education against activities increasing the risk of heart disease.  Since 1961 the AHA has decried the use of saturated fat, based on their support of Ansel Key’s diet heart hypothesis, and leading to over 60 years of preaching against the use of saturated fats from the pulpits of science.  The claim is that 85% of coconut oil is saturated fat (this is the fat deemed “evil” by those “disciples of the low-fat cloth”).   Yes, coconut oil is predominantly a saturated fat.  And approximately 75% of that is medium chain triglycerides, the form that converts most efficiently into ketones, for those of us using ketogenic nutritional approaches to health.  But is coconut oil really bad for your heart health?

Those of us using ketogenic diets know that LDL-C will commonly rise with increased saturated fat intake.  And, we’ve know this for over twenty years. This is to be expected, because LDL-C is really comprised of three different LDL sub-particles (big fluffy, medium, and small dense).  We’ve known for the last twenty years that increased saturated fat actually causes a shift in these particles to bigger “fluffier” particles.  We also know that it’s the small dense LDL particles are the atherogenic/inflammatory particles participating in the formation of vascular disease (arterial blockage) and their presence in the blood is directly correlated with the level of triglyceride, and that the big “fluffy” particles actually reduce the risk of vascular disease. Those of us following ketogenic lifestyles and treating disease with these protocols also know that triglycerides levels are increased directly by increasing levels of insulin.

The 2015 British Medical Journal published a study reviewing the relevant 19 peer reviewed medical articles that included over 68,000 participants.  This review showed that there is no association of high LDL-C (a calculated value of all the LDL sub-particles) with mortality (meaning that an elevated LDL-C does not lead to an increased risk of death from heart disease).  In stark contrast to this landmark review, The American Heart Association’s Presidential Advisory published this week in the June 20, 2017 issue of Circulation states that saturated fat is the cause of increased LDL-C and elevated LDL-C is associated with an increase in death by cardiovascular disease.  This boldfaced claim is based on a single small 4 year (2009-2013) literature review completed by the World Health Organization with a whopping 2353 participants, most of these studies only lasting 3-5 weeks (not nearly long enough to see fully effective cholesterol changes) and none of which had any focus on carbohydrate intake, insulin levels or LDL sub-particle measurement.  From this singular study, the AHA concludes that elevated LDL-C is an indicator of increased cardiovascular mortality.  That’s the equivalent of saying, “you know cars drive on the roads and cause pot holes, so we should all STOP driving cars because it is causing our freeway system to have increased pot holes.”

You can’t extrapolate mortality risk based on a single small study that doesn’t actually identify correlation or causation.  But the AHA did exactly that in 1961, and they are trying to do it again today.   The MR-FIT study, largest study ever completed, is incessantly quoted as the study that demonstrates reduction in cholesterol leads to reduction in cardiovascular disease, but this trial was actually a failure and did not demonstrate improved risk by lowering cholesterol.  In fact, the Director of the study, Dr. William Castelli actually stated, “. . . the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower people’s serum cholesterol…”

“We found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories weighed the least and were the most physically active,” he said.

Isn’t that interesting?

So, is coconut oil, or any other food high in saturated fat to blame?  Absolutely not!  There is no solid evidence to support these facts and there hasn’t been in over 65 years.   In fact, clinically, I find that the addition of coconut oil lowers triglycerides, decreases appetite, improves energy, improves skin tone, and plays a huge role in shifting the Omega 3/6 ratios to a more normal 2:1 level.

Is coconut oil, or any other food high in saturated fat to blame? Absolutely not! There is no solid evidence to support these facts and there hasn't been in over 65 years. #docmusclesClick To Tweet

So, how does coconut oil help the broken metabolism?  The majority of people I see in my office have insulin resistance to some degree.  Insulin resistance is an over production of insulin in response to any form of carbohydrate or starch.  Increasing your saturated fat, does two things.  It provides a fantastic form of fuel, one your body can use very easily.  And second, it will decrease your craving for starches and carbohydrates, naturally decreasing production of insulin and helping to improve insulin resistance over time.

If you want to learn more about using fat and improving insulin resistance, see my previous blog post here.

You can learn more about how our acceptance of bad science has lead to an obesity and diabetes epidemic in our country over the last 65 years by reading these books below: