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Coconut oil has long been regarded as a miracle food, and coconut oil benefits have been the subject of several internet-based crazes in recent years. The market for virgin coconut oil is experiencing steady growth worldwide and is expected to grow at a CAGR of roughly 10% through 2020. During the past few weeks, the Great Coconut Oil Debate has set the web ablaze following the American Heart Association’s announcement that coconut oil might not be as healthy as most people have been led to believe. According to a new report conducted by the AHA, coconut oil may be as unhealthy as beef fat and butter—news that seems to have shocked fitness personalities, wellness bloggers, and lovers of this alleged superfood around the globe.
The AHA’s assertion is largely due to the high amount of saturated fat that coconut oil contains. Coconut oil is over 80% saturated fat, which is a greater percentage than butter or lard. The AHA’s report analyzed data from years’ worth of studies on saturated fat, and refers to one study in particular which found that a 5 percent reduction in intake saturated fat, replaced with polyunsaturated fat, led to a 25 percent lower risk of heart attack. Since coconut oil is so high in saturated fat, high intake could lead to increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and overall poor health. In fact, in seven out of seven trials analyzed in the report, coconut oil increased LDL cholesterol, which is a cause of cardiovascular disease. Says the AHA, “Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD, and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.”
However, moderate or low consumption of coconut oil is likely fine—cooking with coconut oil for every meal every day will increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, as the AHA says, but using it on toast in every once in a while is fine for most individuals. It can still act as a decent substitute for butter and cream for those who cannot or choose not to consume dairy, and as long as your daily calorie intake is comprised of no more than 6% saturated fats, coconut oil is fine to remain as a part of your diet.
Coconut oil may not be a superfood after all—and coconut oil benefits do not extend far into the medical realm, either. Though many home remedies found online promote the use of coconut oil for everything from balancing blood sugar to battling Alzheimer’s disease, there is no medical proof that this oil can do any of that. However, coconut oil can be successfully used as a body moisturizer, makeup remover, hair treatment, shaving lotion, and after-shave treatment. It can also reportedly be used as a furniture polish and shoeshine ointment. In addition, if you seek weight loss, support for the popular keto diet, or you require a simple mental energy booster, then a purified MCT supplement might be a good option for you.
Ultimately, there are coconut oil benefits you can derive from its use—but most of them benefit the outside of the body rather than the inside. When it comes to coconut oil and other saturated fats, superfoods, and health and fitness trends, moderation is key.
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