Health, Lifestyle, Nutrition / September 5, 2018

Poison or Superfood – what´s the deal with coconut oil?

Are you confused in the coconut debate that´s been going on lately?

No wonder!

Is coconut a poison? Is it good for our health? Is it a superfood?

Researchers from different fields are arguing, putting the unsuspecting coconut oil on trial.


Revisit the facts

Thing is this.

Coconut oil is rather high in saturated fat with 86, 5 gram per 100 g oil to be exact.

A large body of scientific evidence has shown that too much of saturated fat raises LDL-cholesterol – a risk factor in Cardiovascular disease1,2.

However, results are subject to certain limitations. Plus, a bulk of emerging evidence also shows that saturated fats may not be as bad for health as previously thought3,4.

Nevertheless, only a few studies with a questionable quality show, that the short chain fatty acids contained within coconut oil may be of benefit to our health. Thus we need a larger bulk of evidence to be able to draw any real conclusions from these.

Also, not much evidence support, that coconut oil is a healthy oil in terms of reducing the risk of CVD5.

There are, however, some indications out there, that coconut is healthier when used cold rather than heated6. But again, more studies are needed to draw exact conclusions.


Navigate the information

Confused about the conflicting data?

You´re not alone.

Here´s the deal.

New science emerges all the time – And this is a really good thing.

We get smarter and our tools for analysis keeps getting better. Thus, the things we thought were true today, might change tomorrow – Or it might turn out to be even more evident.

Nevertheless, it´s important to note that the latest news, doesn’t always trump older news.

So what does this mean?

When new scientific findings emerge, in order for anyone to draw conclusions from it, scientists should be able to be replicate the findings, to demonstrate validity and reproducibility of the current study.

Preferably with larger scale studies of better quality, the next time around.


See the bigger picture

Studying human health and behavior are vastly complex matters with many variables at play. Therefore scientific evidence may seem to be conflicting at times.

Also, quality varies immensely, and we have to make sure that any scientific finding is not just a one-off.

How so?

Well, the problem is this. Anyone not trained to carefully assess scientific studies, might not be able to tell a one-off low-quality study from a great one.

There is a hierarchy of evidence, but you need to know how to navigate in it, in order to sort the good from the awful.

This is how certain myths and weird off-the-scale nutrition advice are often born. Those not certified in analyzing study quality or who don’t have an ability to identify one-offs might jump to conclusions from reading single study results.

If this person has enough public influence – well, then the damage is done.


When in doubt – do this

What to do next?

Coconut oil has gained superfood status by being heavily marketed by companies, celebs, and influencer as a healthy, clean and good-for-all oil.

From a health professional´s point of view, I say, don’t´ believe everything you hear – Coconut oil is not Superman, it´s still just one food component.

As with most food – coconut oil is fine to use, but don’t overdo it. With regards to coconut oil, it seems that being better safe than sorry might work until we know more. So use the oil as a part of a balanced diet.

Really, when it comes to food and health, eating varied and in moderation is really the way to go.

Coconut oil for all kind of external use appears to be just fine.