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Coconut oil: how healthy it actually is, according to researchers

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Whether for baking, roasting or as a butter substitute on bread: Coconut oil, also called coconut fat, is hyped by many as a superfood. It should help you lose weight, ensure good cholesterol levels and, according to its proponents, even protect against cardiovascular diseases.

In a meta-study, a group of scientists examined what is actually true and what is not. To do this, they compared the results of 16 other previously published studies on the subject.

The meta-study comes to a clear conclusion that should scare fans of coconut oil: According to the study results, it must be regarded as one of the most harmful edible oils of all. Because, according to the scientists, an increased LDL cholesterol level – which is also commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol” – leads to a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Coconut oil increases cholesterol levels far more than other fats

Unsaturated vegetable oils from soy, corn, olive or peanut oil have a clearly less negative effect on cholesterol levels, according to the researchers working with Nithya Neelakantan from the University of Singapore. Coconut oil, on the other hand, consists mainly of the saturated fatty acid lauric acid, but also of other long-chain saturated fatty acids such as myristic and palmitic acids.

All of these saturated fatty acids increase LDL cholesterol and thus put a strain on the cardiovascular system. According to the meta-study, lauric acid, the most common fatty acid in coconut oil, significantly increases LDL cholesterol levels. However, saturated solid acids are also found in other foods such as milk fat and palm oil – and yet coconut oil also does worse than these two.

Compared to palm oil – a vegetable fat that is considered to be particularly unhealthy – coconut oil has been shown to increase LDL cholesterol levels. One of the studies included in the meta-study even came to the result that coconut oil increases the cholesterol level more than butter. However, the authors note that the data are still too thin to make a meaningful comparison between coconut oil and butter.

That coconut oil is considered healthy is “a remarkable marketing success for the coconut industry”

However, there is one limitation with regard to the study results: Even if the unfavorable effect of coconut oil on the cholesterol level has been proven, there has been no clinical study to date that has examined the direct effect of coconut oil on cardiovascular events such as a heart attack, heart failure or stroke . However, this connection can be suggested indirectly: because permanently too much cholesterol can clog the blood vessels and thus trigger cardiovascular diseases.

According to the scientists, however, the consumption of coconut oil has no demonstrable negative impact on blood sugar, inflammation and obesity compared to non-tropical vegetable oils.

Also read: A cardiologist warns her patients against the keto diet – because of one major disadvantage

Still, the researchers write that “replacing coconut oil with non-tropical unsaturated vegetable oils, especially those rich in polyunsaturated fats, has health benefits. We are convinced that the results of this meta-analysis should be incorporated into the development of dietary recommendations. “

The authors even go so far as to advise against consuming coconut oil as the standard edible oil: “In culinary practice, coconut oil should not be used as normal edible oil, although it can of course be used sparingly for reasons of taste.”

The fact that, according to a 2016 survey, 72 percent of Americans consider coconut oil to be a “healthy food” is “a notable marketing success for the coconut industry, which touts coconut oil as a natural, healthy product. although consumption has been shown to increase LDL cholesterol and cause atherosclerosis and cardiovascular problems ”.

This article was published by NewsABC.net in June 2020. It has now been reviewed and updated.

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