Saturated fat has been labelled public enemy number one by the medical establishment around the world. The current controversy around coconut oil stems from the fact that it is a 90% saturated fat. While it is better to eat more polyunsaturated fats than saturated, this doesn’t mean that saturated fats are bad for you.
How did this myth get started?
In the early 1960s a fish physiologist named Ancel Keys noted southern Italians lived a long time and attributed this to their diet which was rich in legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts and low in saturated fat. He published a study known as The Seven Countries Study where he showed that countries with a higher consumption of saturated fat had a higher incidence to heart disease. Based on this study, the American Heart Association began telling people that they should eat less fat – especially saturated fat – and more carbohydrates.
The Seven Countries Study is a classic example of biased research leading to a faulty study. Keys picked his seven countries based upon his theory that saturated fats were the problem and picked his seven countries accordingly. For example, France, which has one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world and consumes a large amount of saturated fat, was left out of the study.
Had more countries been included the results of the study would have shown that there is no correlation between a country’s consumption of saturated fat and heart disease.
Following the publication of the Seven Countries Study the sugar industry started financing the research of many prominent scientists, all with the aim of singling out dietary fats and cholesterol as the cause of heart disease and downplaying the risk of sugar.
And it worked. Medical people and nutritionists started fingering fats as the cause of heart disease, consumers began substituting fats with more sugar and refined carbohydrates, manufacturers removed fat from products and added sugar to improve the taste. The food pyramid limited fats and had carbohydrates as the base of daily food consumption. As experts, knowingly or unknowingly, spread the misinformation, the obesity and diabetes epidemics were born.
So how should you eat? Dr. Alfred Dawes is a general laparoscopic & weight loss surgeon at Island Laparoscopy and Medical Care. He says its ok to consume saturated fat in the form of coconut oil, red meat, milk, eggs and butter in moderation and refined carbohydrates – especially sugar – should be limited. By doing this you will limit your risk of developing diabetes, putting on weight and lower your risk of heart disease. He points out that the Mediterranean diet is healthy because it is rich in polyunsaturated fats, not because it is low in saturated fat.
As for coconut oil? It is not the oil that is poison. It may be what you are using it to fry.