Is Coconut Oil Bad For You

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Coconut oil is not bad for you in most cases, when consumed in moderation, provided you don’t have an allergy to coconuts or a health condition that prohibits eating anything that is rich in fats. In fact, for the vast majority of people, coconut oil can be hugely beneficial for health, due to its antioxidant content, beneficial fatty acids, impact on the metabolism, moisturizing capabilities and other vitamins and nutrients.

That being said, there are some health risks that everyone should be aware of before adding coconut oil to their regular health regimen.

Coconut Oil Controversy

The proven benefits of coconut oil versus the potential side effects and health risks remains a constant discussion in natural health circles and among dietary professionals. It is a unique oil that has expanding significantly in popularity in recent years, making it a very hot topic of health.

The health risks associated with coconut oil include weight gain and cholesterol issues, as well as cardiovascular risks, because coconut oil is very high in saturated fats. In fact, nearly 90% of coconut oil is made of these fats, which most people in the medical community have been warning against for the better part of 50 years. The reason for this, of course, is that most saturated fats, such as myristic and palmitic acids, cause an increase in LDL cholesterol. This is the “bad” form of cholesterol that increases plaque buildup in the cardiovascular system and raises your risk for atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and a number of other complications. [1]

A jar of coconut oil with a halved coconut and leaves

Coconut oil features in many foods and has recently gained a reputation for being healthful Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Therefore, at first glance, it may seem like coconut oil – at 90% saturated fat – would make people a heart attack waiting to happen, but this oil has some curious characteristics. Namely, the types of saturated fats that the oil contains are medium-chain fatty acids, which have different qualities than the long-chain fatty acids that give saturated fats a bad name. These medium-chain fatty acids include lauric, capric and caprylic acids, which have the ability to increase HDL cholesterol levels – the “good” cholesterol that helps to counter the “bad” cholesterol in the body. They also have a number of other effects on the body’s metabolism and immune system, which is why the controversy over coconut oil rages to this day! People just can’t seem to decide whether or not this oil is safe to consume on a regular basis. [2]

Research is still ongoing, all over the world, and a final consensus hasn’t been reached. What we do know is that the oil can impart a number of health benefits when taken in moderation, but there are also quite a few health risks if this powerful substance isn’t used responsibly.

Coconut Oil Health Risks

Some of the health risks include:

Cholesterol Imbalance

As mentioned, with this oil being so rich in saturated fats, you run the risk of unbalancing your cholesterol, leading to obesity, excess stored fat, high blood pressure and cardiovascular concerns. However, according to USDA, coconut oil contains 0% cholestrol. Even though the medium-chain fatty acids, including lauric acid, are known to lower bad cholesterol levels (by increasing good cholesterol levels), an excess of these saturated fats being poured into your body isn’t a good idea. Many people read about coconut oil being a “miracle food” and go overboard with their consumption, but this is counterproductive to your health goals. [3] [4]

Weight Gain

Despite the many health benefits of coconut oil that natural health supporters constantly praise, this oil is extremely high in calories, at 117 calories per tablespoon. Since many of the home remedies including this oil will call for at least 1-2 tablespoons per day, the daily and weekly calorie consumption from this oil will rise very quickly. Even if the fat-burning and metabolism-stimulating benefits are true, you will gain weight if you eat too much coconut oil without eliminating those calories from your diet elsewhere. If you plan to include this oil in your regular diet, be sure to counter that with an increase in physical activity, or at least be aware of this highly concentrated caloric source. [5]

Diabetic Risk

Depending on what type of coconut oil you are consuming, it may be very high in sugar. Processed coconut oil is often sweetened along the way, which can more than double the amount of sugar in the oil. If you are buying this oil from the store, always be sure to purchase the organic, extra virgin or cold-pressed varieties, as these will be the closest to an all-natural level of sugars. Consuming an excess of sugar in processed coconut oils can increase your risk of diabetes, as well as obesity, and other associated conditions. [6]

Gastrointestinal Issues

Commonly used to stimulate the digestive system and reduce inflammation, this oil can also wreak havoc on the gastrointestinal system if consumed in excess. As a natural laxative, coconut oil can cause excessive bowel movements and discomfort if you keep shoveling in the spoonfuls. This can also lead to dehydration and nutrient deficiencies if the bowels are moving too quickly for the digestive tract to pull out the vitamins and minerals it needs from the food. [7]

The bottom line when it comes to using coconut oil in any situation is moderation! Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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