Coconut Oil: Not Good for Weight Loss or Optimal Health
By Steve Blechman
Why It’s Not Part of the Thermo Heat Weight Loss Revolution Diet
Coconut oil is a popular health trend. I do not recommend its use for weight loss or optimal health. The truth is coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fats that can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, a high risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The science does not support coconut oil as a healthy oil! In a study published in the prestigious journal Circulation, Dr. Alice Lichtenstein, one of the lead authors of a study, gave FitnessRx/MD Contributing Editor J.A. Giresi a quote via email. “There are no known benefits to using coconut oil in place of vegetable oils such as soybean, canola and corn oils. There is a disadvantage. Whereas most vegetable oils are high in either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fatty acids, coconut oil, sometimes referred to as a tropical oil, is high in saturated fatty acids. The data consistently demonstrate that replacing sources of dietary saturated fatty acids with sources of unsaturated fatty acids, either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated, improves cardiovascular disease risk factors and is associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk.”
Renowned Harvard Researcher Walter C. Willet, M.D. says about saturated fats in the Harvard Health Letter, “Too much saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy because it raises "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. So, it would seem that coconut oil would be bad news for our hearts.” Dr. Willet also states about using coconut oil, “But, for now, I'd use coconut oil sparingly. Most of the research so far has consisted of short-term studies to examine its effect on cholesterol levels. We don't really know how coconut oil affects heart disease. And I don't think coconut oil is as healthful as vegetable oils like olive oil and soybean oil, which are mainly unsaturated fat and therefore both lower LDL and increase HDL.”
A British Medical Journal study published in 2016 examined the association of individual and combined saturated fatty acid intake (lauric, myristic, palmitic and stearic acids) with heart disease risk in more than 73,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and 42,000 from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and concluded, “Lauric, myristic, palmitic and stearic acids are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease after multivariate adjustment of covariates. Risk of coronary heart disease is significantly lower when replacing the sum of these four major saturated fatty acids with polyunsaturated fat, whole grain carbohydrates, or plant proteins, with the lowest risk observed when palmitic acid, the most abundant saturated fatty acid, was replaced.”
The research has shown that the saturated fatty acids that raise LDL (bad) cholesterol are abundantly found in coconut oil (lauric, myristic, palmitic acid). On the chart where coconut oil is listed in the Circulation study, it has about 90% saturated fats. Butter has about 64% saturated fat and beef about 40% saturated fat. Not only is coconut oil the richest source of saturated fat but also a rich source of saturated fatty acids (lauric, myristic and palmitic acids) that raise LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Palmitic acid is the worst saturated fat when it comes to cardiovascular health and raising LDL cholesterol. Research has shown that palmitic acid is the most atherogenic fatty acid and also enhances inflammation. Animal fats such as meat and butter are rich sources of palmitic acids. Also, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that increasing dietary palmitic acid decreases fat oxidation (fat burning) and daily energy expenditure (thermogenesis). The study found that oleic acid, the most abundant fatty acid in olive oil, had the opposite effect— increasing fat oxidation, energy expenditure and thermogenesis. The study says, “Increases in dietary palmitic acid may increase the risk of obesity and insulin resistance.” Proliferator-activated receptor c coactivator 1a (Pgc-1a) is a critical regulator of brown fat (BAT) activity in response to environmental stimuli such as cold temperature and diet (Environmental Epigenetics, 2017). Palmitic acid inhibits Pgc-1a while oleic acid increases it; therefore, palmitic acid is not desirable if you want to increase brown fat activity! Monounsaturated fats are preferred along with omega-3 fats from fish if you want to increase brown fat activity, thermogenesis and fat loss. Brown fat is the good fat. We have two types of fat: brown fat and white fat. The more brown fat we have, the more calories we burn!
So, what about medium-chain-triglycerides (MCTs), a form of saturated fat that has shorter chains of fatty acids? Claims that the majority of fat in coconut oil are MCTs is untrue. The thermogenic/weight-loss research has been done on pure MCT oil, not coconut oil. It’s inaccurate to apply the research on pure 100% MCT oil to coconut oil, which only has 13% of MCTs.
Monounsaturated fats are more thermogenic than saturated fats found in high-fat dairy and red meat. Oily fish rich in omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fat can decrease bodyweight gain and fat accumulation by increasing thermogenesis and energy expenditure (Clinical Nutrition, 2009; Metabolism - Clinical and Experimental, 2008; International Journal of Obesity, 2002; Nutrition Journal, 2015).
Bulletproof Coffee is the latest diet fad— it’s a beverage containing coffee and grass-fed butter (or ghee, clarified butter). In February 2017, 52-year-old Bob Harper, Celebrity Fitness Trainer on the hit TV show “The Biggest Loser,” suffered a heart attack at a New York City gym and went into cardiac arrest. He was lucky to survive! The culprit turned out to be fatty particle in the blood called lipoprotein (a.) Lipoprotein (a.) is a risk factor for heart disease. Research has shown that it can be lowered by monounsaturated fats as shown by a study that reported significant decrease in lipoprotein (a.) levels in people whose diet was supplemented by almonds. Also, the B vitamin niacin has been shown to lower lipoprotein (a.) levels.
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Bob Harper was on the “Rachael Ray Show” in April 2017 demonstrating his “Morning Coffee” which consisted of 8 oz of strong coffee, coconut oil and clarified butter (ghee). He said that this was his “fuel” before he “heads to the gym every morning on an empty stomach.” After his heart attack, I’m sure he discontinued this pre-workout ritual! In fact, he now follows a Mediterranean-style diet, which is rich in monounsaturated and omega-3-fats.
A study in the Journal of Nutrition, June 2018, stated that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to the microbiome and healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. There has been much interest in the scientific research on the microbiome and its effect on weight loss and optimal health. The recent article published in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) prestigious journal Circulation, 2017, showed a low-carb Mediterranean diet was best for weight loss and fat loss compared to a low-fat diet. The low-carb Mediterranean Diet is recommended in the Thermo Heat Revolution Diet.
As mentioned in my previous article, see link here, studies show that the low-carb Mediterranean diet containing healthy fats found in extra-virgin-olive oil and fish (omega-3 fats) is best for weight loss and optimal health. Also, studies show that certain spices like chili pepper (capsaicin), ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and cruciferous vegetables can enhance brown fat and increase thermogenesis (all recommended in the Thermo Heat Weight Loss Revolution Diet and Supplementation Program). A number of studies have shown that healthy fats from nuts, olive oil and fish, found predominantly in Italian, Greek and Turkish cuisine, have health benefits in the prevention of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Oily fish rich in omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fat can decrease bodyweight gain and fat accumulation by increasing thermogenesis and energy expenditure (Clinical Nutrition, 2009; Metabolism - Clinical and Experimental, 2008; International Journal of Obesity, 2002; Nutrition Journal, 2015.)
Check out The Thermo Heat® Weight Loss Revolution, by Michael J. Rudolph, Ph.D, including the foreword by Daniel L. Friedman, MD and Eugene B Friedman, MD. The Thermo Heat® Weight Loss Revolution is a groundbreaking scientific plan based on research involving brown fat (BAT). The Thermo Heat® Weight Loss Revolution offers its readers a brown fat, thermogenic and brown fat-activating diet, 30-day meal plan, nutrition, supplement(s) and exercise program.
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