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Coconut oil: How healthy it is, according to researchers

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Coconut oil is considered a healthy replacement for many animal and vegetable fats.

However, a meta-study comparing 16 studies on the subject concludes that this is by no means the case.

Rather, coconut oil is even one of the most unhealthy vegetable fats – and is not recommended for use as an edible oil.

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 is said to help you lose weight, ensure good cholesterol levels and, according to its supporters, even protect against cardiovascular diseases.

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

The meta-study comes to a clear conclusion, which could scare the fans of coconut oil: According to the study results, it has to be regarded as one of the most harmful cooking oils. Because, according to the scientists, an elevated LDL cholesterol level – which is also commonly known 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 soybean, corn, olive or peanut oil have a clearly less negative impact on cholesterol levels, according to the researchers led by Nithya Neelakantan from the University of Singapore. Coconut oil, on the other hand, mainly consists 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 strain 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 performs worse than these two.

Compared to palm oil, for example – 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 conclusion that coconut oil increases cholesterol levels more than butter. However, the authors note that the data situation is still too thin for a meaningful comparison between coconut oil and butter.

The fact that coconut oil is considered healthy is “a remarkable marketing success for the coconut industry”

However, there is a limitation with regard to the study results: Even if the unfavorable effect of coconut oil on cholesterol levels has been demonstrated, there has been no clinical study to date that would have examined the direct effect of coconut oil on cardiovascular events such as a heart attack, heart failure or a stroke . Indirectly, however, one can suggest this connection: Because permanently too much cholesterol can clog the blood vessels and thus cause cardiovascular diseases.

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

Read also: A cardiologist warns her patients about the keto diet – because of a crucial disadvantage

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

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

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

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