New Zealand

NZ heart group warns against changing to coconut oil

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

NZ heart group warns against changing to coconut oil

Related tags: Fatty acid

The New Zealand Heart Foundation is telling Kiwis that they are better off consuming unsaturated plant oils than switching to coconut oil.

Coconut oil has recently gained popularity as a result of heavy marketing in both the US and Australasia. NZHF claims this has resulted in widespread misinformation about its health benefits, including claims that it is a superfood.  

Traditionally, coconut oil hasn’t been recommended because it is extremely high in saturated fat. This advice remains, despite the large number of marketing claims to the contrary​,” said New Zealand’s leading specialist in oils and fats, Dr Laurence Eyres, who NZHF has commissioned to prepare an academic paper on the subject.

Better than butter but no alternative

Eyres has summarised the existing literature on coconut oil and its impact on heart health. He found nothing which disputes the fact that coconut oil raises cholesterol, and concluded that claims for coconut oil’s healthiness simply don’t stack up.

Consumers who are using a lot of coconut oil due to the current fad would be well advised to either limit its use, or to blend in some unsaturated cold-pressed oil such as olive, avocado or canola oil​,” said Eyres.

“Although it may be a better choice than butter, coconut oil cannot be recommended as a suitable alternative to non-hydrogenated vegetable oils​.” 

The researcher added that switching to coconut oil is likely to lead to less favourable lipid profiles and potential increased risk of coronary heart disease. 

Moreover, the triglycerides in coconut oil cannot be classed as medium-chain triglyceride (MCTs) oils, with studies into this area, mostly in animals, accounting for much of the research into the subject, Eyres said.

No better for the heart

Delvina Gorton, NZHF’s national nutrition advisor, said that occasional use of coconut oil is not a problem but it is not recommended as the main oil of choice. 

The foundation wants to let people know that, based on current evidence, it is still preferable to use unsaturated plant oils over coconut oil as their main oil​,” she said.

People are paying a lot of money to switch to coconut oil thinking it’s better for their heart, but it looks like they’d really be better off sticking with their usual oil​.” 

Gorton says there is only a small body of research currently available on coconut oil and its risk factors for heart disease in humans.

In general, the evidence for the impact of coconut oil on risk factors for heart disease is poor. The limited evidence is not sufficient to change advice, and suggests that in relation to risk factors for heart disease, plant oils higher in unsaturated fatty acids remain preferable​.”

She adds that a dietary pattern based largely on minimally processed foods and which includes plenty of vegetables and fruit, some nuts, legumes, intact whole grains, seafood and lean meats, reduced fat dairy, and healthy oils is recommended for heart health.

Related topics: Formulation, Oceania, Food safety

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1 comment

Health group recommendations: Science or Inertia?

Posted by Jozseph Schultz,

6/23/14 Time Magazine cover: "Eat Butter.
Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong"
and the first page of the article is titled
Don’t Blame Fat
Thirty years of low-fat dogma has produced a nation fatter and sicker than ever, and the “science” supporting the dogma wasn’t science at all.

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