8 Reasons Coconut Oil is Bad For You
Coconut oil has been hailed as a miracle cure for everything from weight loss to heart disease. Some people claim that coconut oil is a cure for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, hypothyroidism, cancer, and almost any health condition.
A blog called Wellness Mama touts 101 Uses and Benefits of Coconut Oil (22). Medical celebrities, such as Dr. Axe, who came up with 77 Coconut Oil Uses (21), and Dr. Oz who calls coconut oil “The Miracle Fat that Fights Fat” (20), tout its benefits too. Not to be left behind, Oprah has several articles and recipes dedicated to coconut oil on her website. Thousands of bloggers and writers write books and create recipes and programs around the magical benefits of this white goop.
As a result of health trends and well-structured marketing campaigns, coconut oil consumption has been increasing over the last decade. The annual consumption of coconut oil is now estimated at 3.5 MT/annum. (23)
Prior to 2015, Carrington Farms, a maker of coconut products, claimed on their website that coconut oil and its chemical constituents treat diseases, hailing it like pharmaceutical companies do drugs.
Carrington Farms claimed that coconut oil and its constituents are quite miraculous. Some of their claims were:
- Caprylic acid can be used to treat infections like ringworm, salmonella, Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus
- Lauric acid has anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal properties and can protect the heart by lowering cholesterol
- Coconut oil can treat gastroenteritis and heart disease
- Coconut oil can kill bacteria; can be used to treat acid reflux, osteoporosis, and earaches; lower incidence of hemorrhoids; and reduce joint and muscle inflammation
Due to such claims and ongoing marketing campaigns, many believe that coconut oil is good for them. In fact, some believe that it is essential and use it in cooking, baking, and even drinking (yikes!) and for oil pulling.
However, while coconut oil has some uses and benefits, the truth is that it can do much more harm than good.
In 2015, the FDA had issued a warning letter to Carrington Farms regarding health claims it made about its coconut oil product. (1) It warned the producer to stop making claims which imply that coconut oil is a drug. And with outlandish claims such as you read above, it certainly sounds like a miracle drug.
Advocates of coconut oil, including Carrington, promote it as being a “healthy” alternative to other oils and fats.
The FDA regulates the use of the word “healthy,” along with words “cure” and “healing.” One of their requirements for using the word “healthy” is that a product described as healthy must contain less than 15% of calories from fat, and at least 10% or more of the DV for Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein or fiber.
Coconut oil fails the test. It is 100.0% fat, and therefore the term “healthy” cannot be applied to it or any other oils. In fact, oils cannot be legally referred to as “healthy” and should not be considered as such by anyone.
While I am not a huge fan of FDA – a very corrupt agency – on this I agree! Claiming that a concentrated fat that clogs arteries is heart-healthy is not only dangerous and reckless, but it’s also quite absurd and stupid.
So, today I want to give you 8 reasons why you avoid consuming coconut oil.
As I do, I would like to invite you to open your mind as you read this article, especially if you had fallen prey to clever coconut oil marketing. There was a time in my life when I too considered it to be a great and healthy alternative to other oils. I even spent hours researching the difference between cold-pressed coconut oil, refined coconut oil, extra virgin, and virgin coconut oil. Thankfully, that phase of my life did not last long. One of the reasons was the eye-opening book by Caldwell Esselstyn Jr.’s “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.”
Dr. Esselstyn is an authority on heart health. In his book, he presented a great argument, backed by experience and science that a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet void of animal products and oils is the best option for a healthy heart and long life. He successfully used it to help his patients reverse and prevent heart disease. (Watch his compelling 14 minute TEDx talk HERE.)
For now, let’s dive into science-based and experience-supported hard-cold facts. Here are the side effects of eating coconut oil and…
8 Reasons Coconut Oil is Bad for You
1. Coconut Oil Raises Cholesterol Levels
Coconut oil has a high level of saturated fat, which raises cholesterol levels in humans. Some people who advocate the consumption of coconut oil say that its high saturated fat content does not matter and claim that increases in plasma cholesterol resulting from its intake also do not matter. They cite populations such as the residents of Kitava and Minangkabau, Indonesia, both of whom eat a diet high in coconut oil and yet maintain excellent health.
Let’s take a closer look at these populations to see if these claims stand up to scrutiny.
Kitava has around 2500 residents, most of whom are farmers. Their diet is concentrated in yams, sweet potatoes, and taro, fruit, fish, and coconut. Unlike their Westerner counterparts, they do not eat dairy products, processed foods, or drink alcohol, coffee, or tea. The macronutrient breakdown of their diet is 69% carbohydrate, 21% fat, and 10% protein. While not perfect, this is much closer to what I consider a healthy diet than an average American dietary pattern.
Based on their diet, the Kitava have lower BMI, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower levels of LDL cholesterol, and significantly lower incidences of heart disease when compared to people living in Westernized countries.
It is their overall dietary habits – high intake of carbohydrates, relatively low fat intake, and low protein intake – that’s responsible for their excellent health. (2) Coconut oil, coconut, and fish are a minor part of their diet.
The diet of Minangkabau of Indonesia is slightly different, but it also includes coconut products, including coconut oil. The Minangkabau diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, coconut, rice, and fish. Beef and chicken are consumed only on special occasions. And other animal flesh foods are rarely ever consumed. However, their diet is much higher in fat, compared to the Kitavan diet – 30.2%. (3) And much of the fat comes in the form of saturated fat.
Does the higher fat consumption, much of which comes from coconut oil sources, have a positive outcome on their health status? Not so much.
The Minangkabau people have the highest incidence of hypertension in Indonesia at 23.6% and also the highest proportion of overweight people at 36%.(4)
So, while many coconut oil-touting websites like to give you soundbites about these populations, more coconut oil, and more fat overall, does not translate to better health outcomes!
Taking a reductionistic approach to health – claiming that one single food item such as coconut oil is responsible for making someone healthy seems to be pure ignorance. However, let me give you MORE evidence, so you can make this conclusion for yourself.
2. Coconut Oil Can Increase the Risk of Heart Disease
Proponents of coconut oil say that coconut oil’s main saturated fat, lauric acid, has been shown in some studies to increase HDL levels. This is true. However, increasing HDL levels has not been proven to improve long-term health outcomes. In fact, studies have shown that supplements and drugs that increase HDL cholesterol have not shown to improve health outcomes in any way. In some cases, they may even worsen a person’s health. (5)(6)
The effect of lauric acid on the body’s LDL concentration depends on which other fats it replaces. If, for instance, coconut oil is used as a replacement for vegetable and polyunsaturated fats in the diet, then its effect will be to increase LDL levels. If it replaces butter, for instance, the effect is neutral.
A 2017 study found that lauric acid, which metabolizes like long-chain fatty acids, increases LDL (bad) cholesterol to the greatest extent when compared to MCFA (medium-chain fatty acids) and SFA (saturated fatty acids. (7)
In other words, too much of a seemingly good thing can prove to be…too much, because exposure to high amounts of lauric acid can result in a higher risk of heart disease and, consequently, death from heart disease. In fact, this is the very thing that the American Heart Association warns us about – high levels of LDL cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
3. Coconut Oil Can Cause Weight Gain
Some tout coconut oil for weight loss. And while this can sell books and programs to weight loss hungry seekers, nothing can be further from the truth!
Using a high-calorie product like oil to lose weight defies logic.
Coconut oil is high in calories and instead of helping you lose weight can lead to weight gain. Coconut oil yields a whopping 117 calories per tablespoon, 14 grams of fat, 12 grams of which are saturated fat. To put this in perspective, lard only contains 5 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
FDA guidelines call for any product labeled low-fat to be no more than 40 calories per reference amount customarily consumed per 50 grams. It’s quite apparent that coconut oil does not meet this requirement.
The claims that coconut oil promotes weight loss are based on an unsubstantiated claim that the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil are metabolized differently than other fats. This claim is based on animal studies and is largely hypothetical. Studies of the effects of consuming coconut oil and weight loss in humans have been inconclusive.
Coconut oil does not possess any magical powers to burn fat. On the contrary, it is likely to help you add body weight.
4. Saturated Fats in Coconut Oil May Affect Your Brain Function
As stated earlier, overconsumption of fats, including coconut oil, can contribute to higher incidences of strokes. Additionally, studies have also shown that women who eat a diet high in saturated fats, which are abundantly available in coconut oil, are more likely to develop memory and thinking problems. (8)(9)
While some wild claims allude to the possibility of coconut oil being a miracle cure for Alzheimer’s, namely Mary Newport’s poorly researched book* “Alzheimer’s Disease: What if There Was a Cure?” there is no evidence to that being the case. In fact, one study demonstrated significant negative effects of hydrogenated coconut oil on both memory function and hippocampal morphology. (10)
To this day there is not one published study showing that human patients with Alzheimer’s disease have improved or recovered as a result of consuming coconut oil. There are also no studies showing that medium-chain triglycerides reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or improve outcomes for those who already have it.
Dr. Daniel Hwang, a research molecular biologist specializing in lauric acid at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of California Davis, says,
“There are a lot of claims that coconut oil may have health benefits, but there is no concrete scientific data yet to support this.” (11)
*Mary Newports claims that coconut oil cured her husband of Alzheimer’s disease were debunked by her husband’s passing from…Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Coconut Oil is Often Hydrogenated
Hydrogenation is an industrial process that turns unsaturated fats into saturated fats.
Coconut oils are often hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated to extend shelf life and help oil maintain its solid texture in warm temperatures. The process of hydrogenation creates trans fats. Trans fat is considered to be the worst type of fat you can consume. It raises your “bad” cholesterol and lowers your “good” cholesterol.
Furthermore, the consumption of trans fats is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. (12)
As with many things, what’s good for extending shelf life is not good for your health.
6. Coconut Oil is BAD for Cooking
When coconut oil, or any other oil for that matter, burns, it emits carcinogens. Unrefined coconut oil has a smoking point of only 350° F! Refined coconut oil – only a slightly higher of 400° F.
And just in case if you are not sure what carcinogenic means – it’s when a substance has the potential to cause cancer.
7. Coconut Oil Consumption Can Lead to Tumor Formation
A high-fat-diet-induced immune reaction causes inflammation leading to intestinal cancer even if one is not obese, one study found. The researchers found that increased tumor formation was associated with an increased fat consumption found in corn and coconut oils.
“We found that specific types of high-fat diets – based on corn or coconut oils like those found in certain salad dressings and ice cream – are associated with increased tumor formation in a mouse model of intestinal cancer,”
said Dr. John Lambris, a professor of research medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in the study published in the journal Molecular Cancer Research. (13)
“This model is particularly interesting because it resembles human familial adenomatous polyposis, a condition that carries an 80 percent risk of developing colorectal cancer in individuals with mutations in a tumor suppressor gene called Apc.”
8. Coconut Oil is Bad for Thyroid Health
Years ago, when I was still struggling with hypothyroidism, I read many claims that coconut oil is good for thyroid health. It made very little sense then – how can a concentrated fat improve the function of the thyroid? Knowing what I know now, it is laughable to think that health seekers are bamboozled to believe that gorging down fat can be good for their health at all, and especially thyroid health.
How is it possible that something that’s proven to worsen cardiovascular health, something that contributes to weight gain and worsens brain function be good for people with thyroid disorders who are already suffering from such symptoms?
Here’s the reality – there is NO evidence to claims that coconut oil can cure hypothyroidism or alleviate hypothyroidism symptoms. There is evidence to the contrary, however – coconut oil is BAD for your health.
Before you add a spoonful of coconut oil to your bulletproof coffee, your stirfry or try oil pulling with it (or add any other oil to your food, be it virgin coconut oil, olive oil, corn oil, soybean oil, or any other vegetable oil or extracted fat), remember this – there are no magical health benefits in oils! They are PURE FAT!
What we know for a fact is that concentrated fat (oils) is BAD for your health!
Instead of clogging your arteries, if you have coconut oil hiding in your pantry, use it in these 7 healthful ways.
7 Ways to Use Coconut Oil
Before we dive into the benefits of coconut oil, let me preface with this – if you choose to use coconut oil in the 7 ways listed below, make sure it’s organic and cold-pressed. Coconut oil that’s not organic can be laden with pesticides and herbicides which are bad for your health.
Furthermore, if you use coconut oil in one of the ways listed below, be sure to buy it in a glass jar to avoid chemicals leaching from plastic containers into the oil.
Do not use refined coconut oil in your food or on your skin, because what goes on your skin ends up in your bloodstream within moments.
WARNING: If you have coconut allergies, avoid using coconut oil altogether.
1. Coconut Oil as a Moisturizer
Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer. Rather than buying personal care products laden with chemicals, including ingredients and the chemicals leached from plastic containers most are sold in, grab a glass jar of virgin coconut oil! Rub it on your skin instead of lotion in the morning or before bedtime. It is a great way to give some TLC to dry skin without compromising your health.
2. Coconut Oil is a Great Lubricant
Yes! You read it right! You can use coconut oil in the place of DW40 to oil your squeaky door, and…
You can also use it as a lubricant in the bedroom!
It is much more natural than chemically infused intimacy lubricants and won’t cause your body the harm they would.
3. Coconut Oil is a Great Hair Conditioner
Have coarse or curly hair? Organic coconut oil is a great conditioner for those with unruly or dry hair. You can apply it right after you wash your hair and let it sit in wrapped overnight to keep your tresses healthy all week long! If you don’t want to wrap your hair, be sure to cover your pillow to avoid oil stains!
If you accidentally use too much coconut oil on your hair, you can rinse out this great alternative to a hair mask with warm water and some shampoo.
4. Create a Chemical Free Deodorant with Coconut Oil
Did you know that many commercial deodorants include ingredients like aluminum chlorohydrate and parabens? These chemicals can cause cancer. A safer alternative is using coconut oil to make your very own chemical-free deodorant.
All you need is…
CHEMICAL-FREE COCONUT OIL DEODORANT RECIPE
- 1/4 cup of baking soda
- 1/4 cup of corn starch
- 5 tbsp of organic coconut oil
- 10-15 drops of your favorite antibacterial essential oil (I love oil of oregano)
- 25 drops of fragrant essential oil such as lemongrass or sweet orange
Blend these ingredients together until well integrated, pour them into a deodorant container, and pop into the fridge! That’s it! And you can say goodbye to smelly armpits. (Find a detailed recipe HERE.)
5. Coconut Oil is Great for Removing Makeup
Coconut oil works great as a makeup remover too! Dab it on a makeup sponge or a warm washcloth to remove your (natural) makeup at the end of a busy day. Splash your face with warm water, massage your skin, and you are ready for a restful night!
6. Coconut Oil as a Massage Oil
Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to coconut oil and use it for a luxurious massage or a foot rub.
7. Use Coconut Oil to Make Soap
If you are savvy in making your own soaps, you can use coconut oil to make moisturizing soaps. If not, you can find coconut-based bar soaps in most health food stores or online.
Coconut Water Benefits
While I have issues with coconut oil as a food source, I LOVE other parts of the coconut fruit.
Coconut water, which is abundantly available in young coconuts, is rich in nutrients. It contains 94% water and very little fat. One cup of coconut water contains only 46 calories and:
- Carbs: 9 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Vitamin C: 10% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 15% of the RDI
- Manganese: 17% of the RDI
- Potassium: 17% of the RDI
- Sodium: 11% of the RDI
- Calcium: 6% of the RDI
Coconut water contains antioxidants. Antioxidants are great for modifying free radicals and stopping them from causing oxidative harm to the body.
One study showed that rats with liver damage had significant improvement in oxidative stress when treated with coconut water. (14)
Additional research showed that coconut water may help prevent kidney stones (15), support heart health by reducing blood cholesterol and triglycerides (16), and reduce blood pressure (17).
Coconut water is also great for replenishing electrolytes, making it a perfect exercise drink. In fact, as studies showed, it does it better than sports drinks. (18, 19)
Coconut water is great at reducing nausea and stomach discomfort. (18, 19) Not to mention that coconut water is delicious!
And here is one historical factoid that will blow your mind: reportedly, coconut water was given intravenously to soldiers during WWII when saline solution was in short supply. WHAT? I know, I was blown away by this too.
Coconut Meat Benefits
(A note of caution for anyone with elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and those who had suffered cardiovascular disease and cancers – I recommend staying away from fatty foods altogether.)
Called copra, coconut meat can be an occasional great addition to smoothies. It is abundant in healthy fat, which is a part of the copra, rather than extracted coconut oil.
The fresh meat of coconut fruit is rich in manganese (one cup provides 67% of RDI). Manganese helps to metabolize fat and protein and it supports the immune and nervous systems.
Coconut meat is also rich in potassium and copper. Potassium is essential for fluid balance within our cells and is necessary for heart function and muscle growth. While copper is essential for the production of red blood cells.
While coconut fruit has a lot of great health benefits, here is one rule I live by – there is no one magical food that everyone in the world should consume!
Our diet should be high in fiber, low in fat, high in carbohydrates, low in protein, and either completely, or mostly plant-based. Our dietary ingredients should be varied and should be rotated when possible.
I’ve worked with thousands of clients from 30 countries thus far, and I found that a simple whole food plant-based diet provides us with all that we need in order to achieve better health. However, a healthy diet is only one of many puzzle pieces we need to achieve long-term health outcomes. If you are interested in learning about other Root Causes of thyroid, hormone, and autoimmune disorders, watch this training.
The popularity of coconut oil is based on myths and misrepresentation of facts. While the general populace and bloggers (like Wellness Mama who provides NO scientific evidence to her health claims that coconut oil is a health food) can be forgiven for spinning the web of confusion, because they are not trained to understand the type of evidence to support their claims, I have an issue with health professionals who promote coconut oil for its nonexistent health benefits. The likes of Dr. Oz and Dr. Axe should know better than to encourage their readers to clog their arteries and predispose themselves to severe health risks. Either they are ignorant, which is disturbing, or they know better but choose to mislead their patients and readers to be in step with the latest scream of ever-changing health trends. Either way, it is up to you – the consumer – to do your due diligence and find out truths about any methods you use to improve your health. You can never be too careful when it comes to your body – you get only one after all. Be your own advocate and triple-check everything you read and consider implementing in your health regimen. Keep in mind that misinformation can lead to devasting consequences, as you have learned from this article.
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- Lindeberg S, Nilsson-Ehle P, Terent A, Vessby B, Schersten B. “Cardiovascular risk factors in a Melanesian population apparently free from stroke and ischaemic heart disease: the Kitava study.” J Intern Med 1994 Sep;236(3):331-340
- Lipoeto N, Mmedsci, Agus A et al. “contemporary Minangkabau food culture in Western Sumatra, Indonesia.” Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2001;10(1):10-16
- Djuwital R, Purwantyastuti2, Kamso S. “Nutrients Intake Pattern of a Minangkabau Ethnic Group.” Makara, Kesehatan 1 Jun 2003;7(1):7-11
- Evacetrapib Fails to Reduce Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events: Trial discontinued after drug shows no clinical benefit, despite impacts on cholesterol (http://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2016/04/03/13/02/evacetrapib-fails-to-reduce-major-adverse-cardiovascular-events)
- The AIM-HIGH Investigators. “Niacin in Patients with Low HDL Cholesterol Levels Receiving Intensive Statin Therapy.” NEJM 2011;365:2255-2267
- Melissa Clark “Once a Villain, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World.” New York Times March 1 2011
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