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Coconut oil is about as healthy as beef fat or butter

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/16/2017 Ashley May
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Video: Replacing saturated fat with healthier fat for your heart (Courtesy CBS News)

The American Heart Association recently released a report advising against the use of coconut oil. 

The Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory reviewed existing data on saturated fat, showing coconut oil increased LDL ("bad") cholesterol in seven out of seven controlled trials. Researchers didn't see a difference between coconut oil and other oils high in saturated fat, like butter, beef fat and palm oil. In fact, 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, according to the data — far beyond butter (63%), beef fat (50%) and pork lard (39%).

"Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil," the American Heart Association said in the Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory

Frank Sacks, lead author on the report, said he has no idea why people think coconut oil is healthy. It's almost 100% fat. Past weight loss studies might be responsible. 

“The reason coconut oil is so popular for weight loss is partly due to my research on medium chain triglycerides," Marie-Pierre St-Onge, associate professor of nutritional medicine at Cornell University Medical School, told TIME in April. "Coconut oil has a higher proportion of medium-chain triglycerides than most other fats or oils, and my research showed eating medium-chain triglycerides may increase the rate of metabolism more than eating long-chain triglycerides.”

The problem is St-Onge's research used a "designer oil" packed with 100% MCTs. Traditional coconut oil only contains about 13 to 15%. Another study she published showed smaller doses of MCTs doesn't help with weight loss in overweight adolescents

The AHA recommends eating no more than 6% of saturated fat as part of total daily calories for those who need lower cholesterol. 

Before you trash your coconut oil, know that saturated fat is a loaded term. While the AHA warns against it, people who cut saturated fat out of their diet might not necessarily lower their heart disease risk, a 2015 BMJ review suggested. That's because some people fill the void with sugar, white flour and empty calories. Also, some fat is important to help bodies absorb nutrients from other foods. Many have said butter has gotten a bad reputation. 

Still, it might not be a bad idea to opt for vegetable oils or olive oil, Stacks said. Plus, coconut oil can still be an effective moisturizer or hair conditioner. 

"You can put it on your body, but don’t put it in your body," Sacks said. 

Slideshow: 40 Food Myths You Hear Every Day (Courtesy: Zero Belly)

Ditching these habits could be the key to easier weight loss.: <p>Don't believe these myths — they could be standing between you and your weight loss goals. </p><p>“None for me,” my friend, Mark said, before the waiter could even approach our table with the bread basket.</p><p>“I’ve got that trip to Cabo in three months and I can’t let carbs get in my way,” he said, tucking into his salad. </p><p>Mark had fallen prey to one of those food myths I hear all the time: if I just give up this one food, I’ll lose weight. If everything I eat is organic, I’ll be thin in no time. If I just drink juice for a week, all my weight woes will be behind me. </p><p>The fact is, we’re falling prey to diet myths left and right and it’s having a major impact on our health. Despite the overwhelming number of people who embark on diets every year, research from the Mayo Clinic reveals that just 2.7 percent of subjects studied actually met the criteria for healthiness across four categories. </p><p>Luckily, there’s something you can do about: load your diet with healthy, whole foods, get your body in motion for at least 30 minutes a day, and make sure you’re conscious to cut out the <a href="http://www.zerobelly.com/40-fattening-unhealthy-childhood-food-habits">40 Fattening Food Habits We Learn as Kids</a>. When it’s time to start your path toward weight loss, make sure you know better than to believe the 40 Food Myths You Hear Every Day and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier, happier life in no time! </p> 40 Food Myths You Hear Every Day


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