From our special correspondent
It feels like coconut oil can pretty much be used for anything these days. Whether it is being used as a skin moisturizer, hair ointment or a cooking fat, it seems coconut oil is here to stay. And even though it has made a name for itself as a popular “healthy” oil option, there is still so much unknown about the benefits and side effects of consuming it. While more research still needs to be done on the lasting effects of consuming coconut oil, experts have found that it may not be as healthy as we’ve been told.
In this article, we can learn some of the surprising side effects of consuming too much coconut oil. First is that it might raise your cholesterol. Although many people consider coconut oil to be healthy, it has actually been shown to have negative effects on cholesterol and cardiovascular health. After looking at multiple clinical trials on the consumption of coconut oil, a report from Circulation concluded that coconut oil significantly raises LDL cholesterol (otherwise known as ‘bad cholesterol’) levels when compared with other oils such as palm, olive and grape seed oil.
Second is that you’ll consume a lot of calories from fat. What may come as a surprise is that although coconut is considered a healthy oil option by many people, about 80 to 90 per cent of it is made up of saturated fat, which is about 11 grams per tablespoon. Because of its association with high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends trying to limit the consumption of saturated fats whenever one can and even suggests staying under 6 per cent of one’s total daily calories.
According to a report from Nutrition Reviews, consuming coconut oil is comparable to consuming most other saturated fats, and there is not enough research yet to determine if it should be considered a healthier option.
Third is that it might cause diarrhea. For some, eating too much coconut oil can cause mild stomach discomfort. A report published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine covered a study of 32 people who regularly consumed coconut oil twice a day for eight weeks. Of these participants, about 72 per cent experienced diarrhea, while only about 19 per cent reported stomach aches. This study was limited because the participants were only between the ages of 18 to 25, so more research still needs to be done on the effects of too much coconut oil on other age groups.
Regardless of age, if one experiences these types of stomach-related side effects after consuming coconut oil, it might be a sign that one is consuming too much of it. There still is not enough research supporting coconut oil. There is still a major disparity between what people believe about the health benefits of coconut oil and its scientifically proven benefits. In a survey from the New York Times, 72 per cent of Americans decided that coconut oil is healthy, but only 37per cent of nutrition experts agreed with this claim.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, many people mistakenly believe that because certain parts of the world who largely consume coconut oil have lower cardiovascular disease rates and cholesterol that it must mean it is healthy to consume. They also point out that other factors related to diet or lifestyle could play a larger role in these regions, and therefore coconut oil may not have the same effects on a western diet. It is also noted that many of these cultures are not consuming the same type of processed version of coconut oil that is common in the western part of the world.
While more researches continue to be done on the long-term health effects of coconut oil, it is important to follow the dietary guidelines on saturated fats whenever possible.