Does coconut oil raise your cholseterol?

 

One of our patients found an article on WebMD about coconut oil and brought this to our attention today so I thought I would let you know what I found. This patient has been working on lowering their cholesterol and was concerned because the article indicated that coconut oil would raise LDL levels. The research for this article was originally done in 2003. As I read through the research, I realized that the person who wrote the article took some of the information out of context. Yes, coconut oil is considered a saturated fat made of Lauric acid. Below is an excerpt from that 2003 study I have highlighted some key statements that were not in WebMD article that I feel are important to know if you are worried about your cholesterol levels;

Individual saturated fatty acids

Lauric acid markedly increases cholesterol, whereas stearic acid lowers it somewhat when it is used to replace carbohydrates. However, the picture reverses if one looks at total: HDL cholesterol: both lauric and stearic acid are now more favorable than carbohydrates. Lauric acid—a major component of tropical oils such as coconut and palm kernel fat—has the largest cholesterol-raising effect of all fatty acids, but much of this is due to HDL cholesterol. As a result, lauric acid had a more favorable effect on total: HDL cholesterol than any other fatty acid, either saturated or unsaturated.

               Mesnick, R. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2003; vol 77: pp 1146-55.

Alright, now to share some key facts about cholesterol that most people, or Doctors, may not know.  In the 2003 study, they were influencing the cholesterol levels by altering the test subjects’ fatty acid and carbohydrate intake.  When, in fact, protein plays a major role in our cholesterol levels.

Whether it is high, low, or very low the density of cholesterol is actually referring to the protein that makes up the cholesterol, not fat.

The protein is what gives cholesterol the ability to transport free cholesterol throughout the body. So the higher the density the more transport ability that molecule will have. That is why we want high levels of HDL. Think of HDL as a mega bus, its job is to move around through our blood stream picking up cholesterol stuck to our artery walls, or just hanging out in our blood and take it back to the liver for processing.

LDL always gets a bad rap, but do you know what its job is?  LDL is responsible to transport cholesterol to our brain and nervous system. Well I don’t know about you but that sounds pretty important to me!

Since our brain and nervous system are so important and our brain is mostly cholesterol this is why our body would raise LDL levels….

YOU ARE PROTEIN DEFFICIENT!

If you have protein deficiency it came from one of two ways 1. You don’t eat enough protein in your daily diet 2. You are not able to properly digest the protein you are eating.

Back to the LDL, remember protein allows for transport. If you are protein deficient and your transport ability is decreased (think cargo van vs. mega bus) then what do you do? Your body calls for more troops to get the job done and LDL serum levels rise to meet the demand to make sure the brain and nervous system are getting what they need!

So the take home message is;

  1. Yes, coconut oil does raise your cholesterol specifically your HDL levels and keeps your LDL levels in check!
  2. Don’t be afraid of coconut oil as a source of good fatty acids
  3. Make sure you are getting plenty of quality protein
  4. If you say to yourself “I eat plenty of protein and my cholesterol is still high” then possibly you are not digesting your protein properly and (INSERT OPTIMAL HEALTH CENTER PLUG HERE) you should see us for an Enzyme consult.
  5. I am glad our patient brought this up because it made me follow-up on the research and now I know that coconut oil is a good choice for my health!

Have a great day!

-Dr Amy

P.S. Be on the look out for my next blog post on the link between cholesterol and hormones!

Below are links to the articles:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/coconut-oil-and-health

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/77/5/1146.long

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/22/magical-fat-that-increases-good-cholesterol-and-lowers-abdominal-obesity-in-women.aspx

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437058