Saturated Fat, MCFAs and Coconut Oil

Around 40 years ago (about two generations), US health experts told us to go as low-fat as possible. Saturated fats in particular (plant and animal sources), they said, were unsafe for human consumption. So bad in fact, they had the potential to kill. They called this The Lipid Hypothesis. The message was loud and crystal clear: saturated fat clogs up the arteries to the heart and expands waistlines. To continue as we had been, said doctors and nutritionists, we put ourselves at grave risk. They warned of cancer, cardiovascular disease (heart and stroke), type-2 diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders. Natural coconut oil is 90% saturated fat, so it went out along with lard, dripping, tallow and all those other fatty cuts of meat people used to enjoy.

If this was an exercise in scaremongering, it worked – on a global scale!

Before the Saturated Fat Scare

Today attitudes are changing, although doctors and nutritionists have not done a full U-turn on their dietary recommendations. Even so, they have certainly toned down their stance and gone some way to soften their fat phobia rhetoric, though many still remain fat phobic. It’s clear that the evidence that fueled the saturated fat scare was wrong and misleading. Think about it. If all these “experts” had the answers for a healthy diet, then why are there so many fat doctors and nutritionists? Before the saturated fat scare of the late 1970s, the world used to enjoy cooking in coconut oil and animal fats.

Coconut Oil Vs Vegetable Oils

Although many people cut down on dietary fat, we never stopped cooking in oil; we just changed the type of oil we used. Populations replaced heart healthy staples like coconut oils with ones extracted from seeds. They called these “vegetable” oils. Most of these derive from corn, soy, canola and safflower. Coconut oil is a natural food whereas vegetable oils are the most “unnatural” manmade concoctions to ever make it into the kitchen.

Pacific Island Populations

Somewhere between 30-60 percent of all the calories in Pacific island populations comes from coconut oil. Going by what they told us in The West, it would be reasonable to assume that the peoples of these regions have a high rate of heart disease. The truth is that cardiovascular disease in this part of the world is almost non-existent [1].

What We Know So Far

OK, let’s take a look at the facts so far to draw some kind of logical conclusion to all this:

  • Natural saturated fats (animal and plant sources) used to be regular food staples
  • Two generations ago, overweight and obese populations were practically unheard of
  • For cooking, we exchanged healthy natural fats for unhealthy unnatural seed oils
  • We replaced high fat foods with low-fat and no-fat alternatives
  • We began to get heavier and wider soon after we followed the new dietary guidelines
  • Experts who guide us on dietary matters have also gotten fat like the rest of us
  • Exercise and low calorie diets, for the most part, do not work or are unsustainable

Eat Fat to Lose Weight!

This list of observations is not the result of personal opinions but hard facts. Before the late 1970s, no one worried about saturated fat or high cholesterol. Back then we ate dairy, meat and enjoyed full fat milk, butter and every other real food they advised us to cut from the diet. No one knew much about type-2 diabetes until around 1980 (three years after the US dietary recommendations changed). Doctors now link type-2 diabetes so closely to obesity that it’s earned a new nickname DIABESITY [2].

Study after study has since shown that saturated fat in coconut oil or animal foods does not make people pile on the pounds or cause high cholesterol. If anything, eating more fat will see you lose weight and able to maintain a healthier waistline, just like in grannie’s day. So if fat doesn’t make us fat, what has been the root cause of this obesity epidemic? For that we have to return to pre-1977, and look at how we used to eat. Back then we ate more real foods and in proper balance. We also need to look at what we didn’t each so much of, which was grains, processed foods, snacks between meals and sugars. So the answer to the question is multifaceted, but still easy to comprehend [3].

The root cause of global obesity is most likely due to the following changes in diet and eating habits:

  1. Increase in carbohydrate intake (grains, vegetables, sugar, etc.)
  2. Decrease in natural plant and animal fats
  3. Snacking between meals (overeating, typically processed carbohydrates)

Experts have written many books on the topic, but the three points above seem to be the crux of the problem. Intermitting fasting may also help in cases where people have been overweight for a long time. One of the leading experts in this area is Dr. Jason Fung. Dr. Fung is able to explain diabetes reversal or fasting for weight loss in a very eloquent and non-technical way [4].

Summing Up

The saturated fat in coconut oil is perhaps the healthiest of any natural food source, plant or animal. Its secret lies in the three healthy fats they call MCFAs, or medium-chain fatty acids:

  1. Capric acid
  2. Caprylic acid
  3. Lauric acid

About 63 percent of the coconut’s oil contains these three special fatty acids. And 90+ percent of coconut oil is healthy, natural saturated fat. Embrace coconut oil and reject seed (vegetable oils), and you too will get to take back control of your health going forward. The MCFAs in coconut oil are the ideal source of energy too, as the body uses them almost immediately.


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About Coconut Health

Hi, my name is Susan and over the past few years, stories on health especially natural ways to heal have fascinated me. This site was set up to explore the research, stories and health possibilities of coconuts. Feel free to contact me if you have suggestions, questions or to tell me your story!