What Everyone Is Overlooking About The Coconut Oil Debate

The internet has been blowing up the past 2 weeks over the seemingly endless debate of whether coconut oil is healthy, as a result of the recent USA Today article Coconut Oil Isn't Healthy. It's Never Been Healthy.  The article cites the findings from the most recent American Heart Association studies surrounding dietary fat and its relation to cardiovascular disease.  The report states "Because coconut oil increases LDL (bad) cholesterol, a cause of cardiovascular disease, and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.”

No one argues with the fact that high LDL cholesterol levels cause cardiovascular disease.  But, those who believe coconut oil and high fat diets are healthy argue that the type of LDL cholesterol is the key.  People in this camp argue that having high LDL levels is completely safe as long as it is large "fluffly" LDL and not small "dense" LDL.  Is large "fluffy" LDL better?  Maybe, but it's like comparing butter to bacon grease... sure, one of those is better but they both are bad.  Dr. Greger explains it best in this video, showing that "dense" LDL increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by 63% and "fluffy" LDL increases your risk by ONLY 44%.

But, regardless of your stance on coconut oil, everyone seems to be missing the bigger picture here.  The AHA report, which you can download here, is 20 pages long and there is just a few paragraphs regarding coconut oil.  Everyone is talking about the damn coconut oil, but why isn't anyone concerned with the other 19 and 3/4 pages!  The report is on "dietary fats" from all kinds of sources.  Let me enlighten you on what you should be paying attention to...

The amount of dietary fats the average American consumes from coconut oil is minuscule in comparison to other sources.  The average per capita consumption of coconut oil in the US is less than 1kg per year.   Meanwhile, the yearly consumption of red meats, poultry, and fish, all foods just as loaded with bad saturated fats, is 82kg per year.  And the average American's intake of dairy, also riddled with bad saturated fats, is an astonishing 120kg per year.  That's roughly 120 times the amount consumed of coconut oil.

Did the American Heart Association make any conclusions in regard to the consumption of cheese and meats?  Do these foods also raise LDL levels and promote cardiovascular disease?  Of course they do.  Go read the other 19 pages!   

Do you see the point here?  The fact that the average meat, dairy, and processed food-eating American is concerned about dietary fats from coconut oil is absolutely mind blowing.  When the reality is, coconut oil makes up only a tiny percentage of all the dietary fats the average person consumes.  It's like already being soaked from head to toe and you're worried about a single rain drop landing on you.  It's insignificant.

So, do you eat coconut oil or not?  It does NOT matter.  Instead, let's stop arguing about it and researching it and start focusing on the other 99% of the American diet.  Cutting out coconut oil is not going to decrease the average person's risk of cardiovascular disease.  It's not going to have any significant impact on lowering one's LDL levels.  If we want to decrease the amount of people dying from cardiovascular disease, we need to be focusing on decreasing (and ideally eliminating) meat and dairy consumption, not coconut oil.