Diet & Nutrition

Turns out coconut oil is bad for you

In fact, it's as unhealthy as butter or beef dripping.

By Kate Wagner

The world of nutrition is a confusing, scary place.

Some people say coffee is the best thing for you; others say it should be avoided like the plague. Some steer us from snacking, while others say we should be incessantly eating.

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^ What does it all mean?

However, coconut oil seems to be used religiously by almost every health blogger, marketed as a far healthier alternative to olive oil.

But is coconut oil good for you?

Well, my friends, those health bloggers are wrong – in fact, the American Heart Association says it’s just as unhealthy as butter and beef dripping.

“A recent survey reported that 72 per cent of the American public rated coconut oil as a ‘healthy food’ compared with 37 percent of nutritionists,” the AHA’s review said.

“This disconnect between lay and expert opinion can be attributed to the marketing of coconut oil in the popular press.”

Melbourne-based dietician Zoe Nicholson, from private consultancy Figureate, told choice.com.au the myth seems to be ubiquitous in Australia as well.

“Some believe the claims that are being made about weight loss, boosting the immune system and fighting various diseases,” she explained.

“Others are using it because everyone is talking about it and shops are selling it as the new best thing.”

Nicholson added that none of those claims have been properly researched or proven.

Jamie Oliver also has a bone to pick with coconut oil’s healthy image.

“A lot of people say coconut oil is the best thing on the planet but it’s also one of the most saturated fats, so let’s get our facts right,” he said.

“It’s like, OK, come and meet five scientists who are the best on the planet and they’re going to tell you that you’re talking total bollocks.”

Why is coconut oil bad for you?

The reason coconut oil goes into the “sometimes food” pile is the fact it’s a saturated fat – the type of fat associated with high cholesterol.

Recent research suggests the type of saturated fat in coconut oil may mean it’s metabolised differently, but experts think you’re better off sticking to the fatty acids you need - like avocados, fish oil, nuts and seeds.

And if you have high cholesterol already, then coconut oil should definitely be avoided.

In fact, swapping it for olive oil – of Mediterranean diet fame – will reduce your cholesterol levels as much as the new, fancy, cholesterol-lowering drugs.

“Because coconut oil increases [bad] cholesterol, a cause of cardiovascular disease, and has no known offsetting favourable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,” the AHA conclude.

Looks like we’ll be sticking to avo on toast, even if it means we can’t ever buy a house.