Does Coconut Cause Heart Disease?

There has been a lot of controversy about whether coconut is actually good for you, especially whether it raises your risk of cardiovascular disease. It's loaded with saturated fats and saturated fats cause heart disease, right? But most of those fats are medium chain triglycerides which are actually good for you, right? It gets confusing really quickly. There are really two major questions here; do saturated fats cause heart disease and do medium chain triglycerides behave like other saturated fats?

With saturated fats in general there has been a lot of conflicting information with them being thought to be a major contributor to heart disease for many years but every couple of years a study would come out that seemed to contradict that. Like this one that followed a group of men over two years as they used either sunflower or coconut oil in their cooking and found no difference in health outcomes between the two groups. So what's going on? Recent research demonstrates that the amount of refined carbohydrates in the diet might actually be the deciding factor in whether the fat in your diet causes heart disease or not. In the study there was no difference in the cholesterol and other health indicators between high fat and low fat diets as long as the sugars were kept low.

Besides that scientists are addressing the second point and finding that medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which make up 63% of the fat in coconut, do not behave the same way as other saturated fats. A 2016 paper made the case that "MCTs improve body composition without adversely affecting cardio-metabolic risk factor". In plain English they help with fat loss without raising the risk of heart disease. They called for researchers to specify whether they were using medium or long chain saturated fats in their studies saying "It is clinically relevant to distinguish between sources of saturated fats for cardiovascular health. Medium, and possibly shorter chain, saturated fats behave differently than long-chain saturated fats and should not be judged similarly when it comes to their cardio-metabolic health effects. Given their neutral, and potentially beneficial cardiovascular health effects, they should not be categorized together." Not only does coconut oil not cause heart disease but according to this and other studies it could be used to treat certain cardiovascular conditions.

source: wikipedia
source: Wikipedia

So what about the rest of the fat in coconut? Of the fat in coconut there is 25.5% long chain saturated fats. 6.5% is oleic acid also called DHA. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid well known for boosting brain function. The remaining fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats similar to what is in olive oil which is know for it's health benefits. But wait there's more! Coconut is high in fiber (25% by weight) and diets high in dietary fiber have been shown to reduce obesity even with a high fat diet. To sum up saturated fat isn't as bad as we thought it was as long as we don't eat too much sugar, the MCT's in coconut shouldn't be classified with other saturated fats as they behave very differently in the body and the fiber in coconut actually helps your body deal with the long chain fats. In short no, coconut does not cause heart disease and the MCTs and fiber have well-known health benefits. If you want to get some more coconut in your diet pick up a pack of our Organic Toasted Coconut Chips!