Another blogger queried about the benefits of Virgin Coconut oil but stated that it should consumed in moderation, citing the risks of eating saturated fats. Having read up on this subject I wrote a response, and I decided to post it here as well. This is such an important subject. See the original blog post here. And the following is what I have to say on this topic:
No, I don’t believe saturated fats are harmful, coconut or otherwise. What I have read refutes what the AHA and other authorities say about saturated fats in general. If you read the section on fats in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon you will find that highly processed vegetable oils are far more harmful. For more in depth information about fats, I recommend the books Eat Fat, Lose Fat and Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol by Mary Enig, PhD. For example, in the often cited Framingham Heart Study, the people who ate the most cholesterol, saturated fat, and calories; weighed the least and were the most physically active and had the lowest serum cholesterol values. The study did find that those who weighed more and have high serum cholesterol were slightly more at risk for future heart disease, but these factors were not correlated with a high intake of cholesterol and fat.
The fact is, that highly processed vegetable oils are cheap to produce and benefit the food industry enormously. (And probably the medical profession as well, unfortunately.) But these vegetable oils are produced using high temperatures and solvents, and are unstable, going rancid easily, and are easily damaged by high temperatures in processing and in cooking. These unstable oils break apart creating dangerous free radicals. There protective vitamin E these oils contain is also destroyed by processing. It is often replaced by harmful preservatives such as BHT and BHA.
In the US, from 1910 to 1970 we have reduced our consumption of butter from 18 pounds per person per year to only 4 pounds. Stable saturated fats such as coconut oil or palm have been largely removed from our food supply and replaced with the unstable vegetable oils, or worse, transfats. We have also significantly reduced consumption of animal fats. But the corresponding reduction in heart disease and obesity has not occurred.
As for coconut oil, here are a few of the benefits. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids, which do not need the action of bile salts to be utilized, but are absorbed directly from the small intestine to the liver and are converted into quick energy. Coconut oil contains large amounts of lauric acid, which has antimicrobial, antifungal, antitumor, and immune system supporting properties. The only other good sources of lauric acid are breastmilk and, to a lesser extent, butter.
This is a great subject to do some research and learn more about. Some other good sources of information include the Weston A Price foundation website http://www.westonaprice.org and Price’s book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.