Coconut Oil – good or bad?

Last week I heard from a number of clients freaking out about eating coconut oil.  The American Heart Association has released a report advising against the use of coconut oil because they claim research has shown it raises cholesterol.

In this blog I want to help clear up the biggest myth about consuming this yummy saturated fat (coconut oil is 90% saturated fat) that I’ve been enthusiastically promoting. There is a lot of science that proves that it doesn’t increase heart disease, so I hope to help ease your concerns about consuming it.

First of all I want you to understand:   Cholesterol does NOT cause heart disease.!!!

INFLAMMATION causes heart disease.

And what causes inflammation?

  • Sugar
  • Stress
  • Processed foods, trans fats, and High fructose corn syrup
  • Commercial raised meat and dairy (all non-organic)
  • Refined carbs (think breads, pasta, white flour)
  • Excess alcohol, drugs
  • Pollution
  • Lack of sleep and exercise

Did you know that countries with the highest intakes of coconut oil have the lowest rates of heart disease?
Cholesterol is not black and white. Our body actually needs cholesterol to:

  • Support brain and nerve function,
  • Build cell walls,
  • Make key hormones (like sex and stress hormones),
  • Synthesize vitamin D.

An obesity and heart disease epidemic began in the US about 40 years ago. The old way of thinking was that cholesterol gets into your arteries from eating dietary cholesterol (too much meat, dairy and coconut oil). It builds up as plaque and our body calls in cholesterol (a sticky, duct-tape-like substance used as a patching tool in our body) and we may eventfully develop heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
This philosophy is based largely on an influential but flawed 1960s study that concluded that people who ate a lot of dietary cholesterol had high levels of cholesterol and heart disease. This started the low-fat/no-fat Frankenfoods craze that traded fats for more food like SUGAR! It also launched the cholesterol-lowering statin drug, multi-million dollar business.

Did it work?
NO! Instead of making people healthier, we wound up with diabetes and obesity epidemic that increased rates of heart disease. This skewed view has affected what we eat and what drugs we take. WE know now that Inflammation is the main driver of heart disease and as we age our cholesterol is suppose to increase.

Recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines finally stopped recommending lowering cholesterol and dietary fat. In fact, the new guidelines don’t emphasize any limit on total dietary fat or cholesterol, which is a complete reversal on governmental advice from 35 years ago.

SOLUTIONS – when your doctor says your cholesterol is too high.

If eating more saturated fats raises your cholesterol, make sure you get the RIGHT test that measures TYPE of cholesterol.
(My cholesterol has gone up since I began eating more coconut oil, coconut butter, and butter from grass fed cows and I’m not concerned because the ratio of my total cholesterol : HDL is in range of normal. Also my triglycerides are really low because I eat vey little sugar.

This TEST is actually more important than cholesterol itself.

Be sure to ask your doctor for these specific lipid panels tests that measure particle number and size:
Lab Corp: NMR lipid panel
Or Quest Diagnostics: Cardio IQ

SCIENCE LESSON: Studies show saturated fat raises LDL (so-called “bad” cholesterol) but it improves the quality of the LDL and increases its size making it less likely to promote heart disease. It also raises HDL (“good” cholesterol)- which is why my total cholesterol is higher than before. On the other hand, sugar lowers HDL.   Ultimately, the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol and particle number and size are a far bigger predictor of heart attacks than LDL itself.

Abnormal cholesterol ratios are caused by eating: 

  • High sugar (read labels!) or foods that convert quickly to sugar (think anything made with flour which raises your triglycerides)
  • High-carb diets (too many starchy carbs – rice, legumes, bread, pretzels, corn, potatoes, chips and fries – both usually fried in soybean oil)
  • Low-fat diets (low fat milk, yogurt, processed foods, etc –the way we ate for 6 decades thinking we were doing the right thing)
  • Low Quality oils (hydrogenated, palm kernel, corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, soybean and grape seed oil)

The New Dietary Fat Rules and Healthy Fats

SMALL particle lipid numbers are lowered when you add 2 – 3 servings per meal of HEALTHY fats to your diet (serving size is in parenthesis). It’s easy to go over board when it comes to fat – so watch your serving sizes!!!!:

  • Organic coconut oil (1 Tbsp.)
  • MCT oil or medium chain triglycerides is a high octane coconut oil – great for energy, boosting metabolism, supporting immune function, mental clarity and alertness. (1 Tbsp.)
  • Organic coconut milk (1/4 cup) – Native Forest brand is my favorite because it’s organic and the cans are BPA free
  • Avocado (¼ – ½ = one serving)
  • Fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, herring, black cod, and wild salmon; aim for (4 to 6 ounce servings), 3 to 4 times per week. Or take a fish oil supplement
  • Nuts and seeds – (¼ cup /day) All nuts, except peanuts, are OK.
  • Olives (¼ cup)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, walnut oil, almond oil. Use these oils in salads or dips, not for cooking with high heat. When using high heat, choose a stable saturated fat like coconut oil, duck fat, butter or ghee. (1 Tbsp.)
  • Grass-fed butter, clarified butter or ghee – Butter produced from grass-fed animals eat leafy greens every day and are higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Butter from factory-farmed animals that  eat cheap, nutrient-free GMO grains and antibiotics. If you are allergic to dairy, just use ghee. (1Tbsp.)


We now know that SUGAR (including foods that convert quickly to sugar), un-managed STRESS, low fat diets and poor quality oils are the biggest bandits of heart disease and cholesterol issues. If you’re concerned, get your particle size tested now! So, we can eliminate the idea that saturated fat is the enemy—and start putting some good saturated fats back into your diet!

Works Cited

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/67/5/828.short

D M Dreon, H. A. (1998, May 1). Change in dietary saturated fat intake is correlated with change in mass of large low-density-lipoprotein particles in men. (Am J Clin Nutr May 1998 ) Retrieved June 19, 2017, from www.ajcn.com: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/67/5/828.short

Hyman, D. M. (2016, January 14). www.drhyman.com/blog. Retrieved June 21, 2017, from www.drhyman.com: http://drhyman.com/blog/2016/01/14/7-ways-to-optimize-cholesterol/

Hyman, D. M. (2015, March 21). 3 crucial phases of the blood sugar detox plan. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from www.drhyman.com: http://drhyman.com/blog/2015/03/21/dr-hyman-on-the-3-crucial-phases-of-the-blood-sugar-detox-plan/

Hyman, D. M. (2011, May 13). 5-reasons-high-fructose-corn-syrup-will-kill-you/. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from www.drhyman.com: http://drhyman.com/blog/2011/05/13/5-reasons-high-fructose-corn-syrup-will-kill-you/