Coconut oil is becoming increasingly popular in recent years, both as a cooking component and a tool for natural health. The impact it has on cholesterol levels, however, means that you should pay attention to how often you’re using it.
Is Coconut Oil Bad for Your Cholesterol?
When it comes to coconut oil, many people point out that it is quite high in saturated fat, which is generally considered unhealthy and can contribute to your high cholesterol levels. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, coconut oil contains 0% cholesterol. In fact, coconut oil is made up of more than 85% saturated fat, which is far more than olive oil (about 15%) or even lard (40%). At face value, therefore, coconut oil would appear to be a bad choice for your cholesterol levels and heart health.
However, not all saturated fats are created equally, and in the case of coconut oil, many of those saturated fats are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). About half of the MCTs are a compound called lauric acid, which is a form of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). LDL cholesterol is the unhealthy form of cholesterol, which can cause plaque to build up in your arteries. HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) in coconut oil can help to remove plaque and protect cardiovascular health. According to a study published in the Clinical Biochemistry journal, virgin coconut oil helps in lowering lipid levels in serum and tissues.
So, while coconut oil’s fat content leans heavily towards saturated fats, the body experiences an increase in both good and bad forms of cholesterol. Now, given the recent upswing in popularity for coconut oil, there is a significant amount of research being done on the exact effects of this substance, but generally speaking, it is not considered dangerous when consumed in moderation.
To answer the question of whether it is good or bad for cholesterol, the answer is actually…both. In a comparative study of coconut oil, butter, and safflower oil on lipids in men and women, gender differences were apparent in the result. Triacylglycerol was higher on the butter diet but this result was significantly visible only in women. The study was published in the Journal of Lipid Research. Thus, depending on your specific health status and overall cholesterol levels, it may or may not be safe for you to regularly use coconut oil.
Dr. Walter Willett advice to use coconut oil sparingly, in a recently released Harvard Health Letter. Using this oil sparingly, and not as daily cooking oil, is probably wise, as there are many other readily available cooking oils that will have more of a positive effect on your cholesterol and heart health.