Coconut oil has seen a surge in popularity in recent years due to many touted health benefits, ranging from reducing belly fat to strengthening the immune system, preventing heart disease, and staving off dementia. These claims are often backed by celebrity endorsements and bolstered by proponents of popular diets such as ketogenic and Paleo, with little support from scientific evidence. On the flip side, and further adding to the confusion, you also may have seen headlines calling out coconut oil as “pure poison,” implying that it shouldn’t be consumed at all. Given these contradictory claims, a question of much public and scientific interest is whether there is room for coconut oil in a healthy diet.
Bad fats, good fats
Coconut oil largely consists of saturated fat (80% to 90% of fat in coconut oil is saturated), making it solid at room temperature. Other sources of saturated fat include animal products such as meat and dairy, and other plant-based tropical oils such as palm oil. Consumption of saturated fat has long been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to its ability to raise harmful LDL cholesterol levels.
Excerpted from Harvard Health Publishing