You may have noticed some negative headlines about coconut oil over the past few weeks. The latest wave of bad press has stemmed from controversial comments made by a Harvard professor in a lecture posted on YouTube. One of the first publications to cover the story was Business Insider in their August 20 article, A Harvard professor just busted the myth that coconut oil is good for you, calling it 'pure poison'.
Claims against coconut oil are nothing new. In fact, just last year, the American Heart Association published an article, Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease, which argued that saturated fats should be replaced with polyunsaturated fats to reduce the risk of heart disease.
The argument against coconut oil appears on page 13 of the 24-page article, with the AHA taking the stance that coconut oil is bad for heart health as it contains 82% saturated fat. If you'd like to read our response to the AHA's claims against coconut oil, check out our post, Coconut Oil Is It Really Healthy?, from July 2017.
In light of the continued health claims against coconut oil, we got in touch with Dr. Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D., a certified nutritionist, naturopathic physician, and author of more than 20 books including The Coconut Oil Miracle and Coconut Therapy for Pets.
Dr. Fife was kind enough to send us some articles that address the health claims made against coconut oil over the last couple of years. In this post, we'll summarize these important articles to give you a better understanding of the other side of the negative press surrounding coconut oil. Please click on the titles if you'd like to read the full articles.
The American Heart Association Proclaims Coconut Oil Unhealthy!
In the Spring, 2017 edition of his newsletter, Dr. Fife directly addressed the AHA's health claims against coconut oil. Here are the key points made in the article:
The AHA's article was not the result of any new study
The focus of the AHA's article was to reiterate their longstanding position against the use of saturated fats. It was not based on new research. Instead, it used cherry picked studies to support the AHA's position.
The media turned the spotlight on coconut oil
The AHA's 24-page article dedicated just half a page to the topic of coconut oil. The editors at USA Today stirred up controversy by attacking the wholesome image of coconut oil with the attention-grabbing headline, "Coconut Oil Isn't Healthy, It's Never Been Healthy". Other publications quickly picked up the story, prompting a slew of sensationalist articles.
The AHA's article demonizes saturated fats
The AHA has always taken the stance that saturated fats are bad and increase cholesterol levels, which they claim increases the risk of heart disease. Their argument is that all saturated fats raise total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, which in turn, increases the risk of heart disease.
The AHA fails to mention that total cholesterol is not an accurate indicator of heart disease risk. They also don't mention that saturated fats, including coconut oil, increase HDL cholesterol – the good cholesterol that reduces the risk of heart disease.
The AHA downplays the fact that are two types of LDL cholesterol
There are two types of LDL cholesterol. One type is large and fluffy, the other is small and dense. The large type of LDL cholesterol – the type that coconut oil increases – is actually beneficial to health. It is only the smaller, denser type of LDL cholesterol that threatens heart health.
Coconut oil increases large LDL cholesterol, reduces small LDL cholesterol, and raises good HDL cholesterol. The overall effect is that coconut oil reduces the cholesterol ratio, thus lowering the risk of heart disease.
The AHA's article leaves out important health benefits of coconut oil
Dr. Fife points out that the AHA's article leaves out some important health benefits of coconut oil. These include the fact that coconut oil lowers triglycerides, thus lowering the risk of heart disease. Not only that, polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils can raise small LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of cancer, neurological disorders, and autoimmune disease. The AHA's article fails to mention that coconut oil can prevent, and possibly even reverse these conditions.
Nonprofit Organizations and Conflict of Interest
Besides sensationalist journalism and skewed articles based on outdated studies, there's another reason why coconut oil gets a lot of bad press. Here are the key points made in Dr. Fife's Winter, 2017 newsletter article that looks at nonprofit organizations and conflict of interest:
The positions of many nonprofit organizations are biased towards their benefactors
Dr. Fife uses the example of the AHA to demonstrate the conflict of interest that arises when nonprofit health organizations rely on donations from companies and industries.
Donations from food manufacturers lead to endorsement of their products
Food manufacturers pay thousands of dollars annually for the AHA's endorsement of their products in the form of the "American Heart Association Heart Check" seal of approval. But you only have to glance at supermarket shelves to see that many products that carry this endorsement are loaded with sugar, trans fats, MSG, preservatives, and other questionable ingredients.
In addition, the AHA accepts millions of dollars a year in donations from companies such as Kellogg's, PepsiCo, Nestle, Mars, Kraft, and Domino's Pizza. Many of the foods that the AHA endorses are far from healthy, but they are financially incentivized to back them.
Industry-funded research bias
The AHA also receives millions of dollars a year from drug and medical device companies, and members of the AHA research committee receive funding from drug and food companies for research, which is clearly a conflict of interest.
Going back to coconut oil, there is no financial incentive for the AHA to endorse it. Further, if the AHA's research committee uncovers information that is unfavorable to their corporate sponsors, results tend not to get published.
Since publication is the goal of research, industry funded studies are often purposely designed to give favorable results. In this way, they provide "proof" to back up the AHA's position and appease their sponsors.
Nonprofit organizations are in the business of fundraising
Dr. Fife points out that nonprofit organizations are concerned more with their financial security than with public health. This means that the health advice they offer must be viewed with some degree of skepticism.
Throughout this post, we've outlined some of the main reasons why coconut oil has received a lot of bad press in recent years. Although the negative press coverage can be discouraging, here at CocoTherapy we're committed to spreading the word about the wonderful benefits of coconut oil.
We consult with some of the world's leading authorities on coconut oil and pet wellness to bring you the latest research and science-backed facts about our favorite oil.
Any questions? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach out to us in the comments section below and we'll get right back to you!