Coconut oil has been a pretty controversial food recently. It’s often praised as a healthy superfood but its high saturated fat content (86%, much higher than butter at 51%) means that official dietary guidelines have in the past warned about its dangers for cholesterol and heart health.
That’s why Dr. Michael Mosely decided to help run a trial as part of a BBC2 documentary to find out the effects of butter, olive oil and coconut oil on cholesterol.
The big surprise was the coconut oil. Not only was there no rise in LDL levels, which was what we were expecting, but there was a particularly large rise in HDL, the “good” cholesterol, up by 15%.
On the face of it that would suggest that the people consuming the coconut oil had actually reduced their risk of developing heart disease or stroke.
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Clearly, this is just a small experiment, and they did not measure clinical outcomes proving reduced cardiovascular events. However the results line up with modern reviews of all the science.
Dr. Mosley says that to label coconut oil as a superfood would be premature, but that there certainly doesn’t seem to be any reason to stop eating it. That sounds about right.