Coconut Oil Increases Cholesterol, Yet is Still Healthy for Your Heart

The tropical oil that has a favorable effect on cholesterol

It’s true. No need to cringe over the Obamacare tax this year, the solution to your cholesterol may lie in jar of coconut oil. Coconut oil raises your total cholesterol. The paradox? It actually has a positive effect on cholesterol, and contains types of fats that may even help prevent heart disease. Unfortunately, many shun this natural plant-based saturated fat after decades of nutritional propaganda and confusing medical research.

Why Saturated Fat from Coconut Oil is Good for the Heart

Back in the day when Ancel Keys publicized his fat research study, conventional health practitioners started to preach a diet low in saturated fats. Mock saturated fats, like margarine and hydrogenated vegetable oils, were used as “healthy” substitutes for things like butter, shortening and lard. Americans, at least, were praised for using these so called healthy man-made fats. Coconut in all its glory was also banned from healthy food lists for its high saturated fatty acid profile. Little did researchers know that these fatty acids were actually helpful for a myriad of bodily functions.

But then, something went wrong. Researchers found that perhaps man wasn’t smarter than nature. These margarines and other unnatural substitutes were composed of predominately trans-fats, which are the most dangerous fats of all. They’re so dangerous, that many health care practitioners and other health experts (including me) find them even more jarring to bodily health than smoking a cigarette.

Coconut Oil Raises Total Cholesterol, But it’s Still Good for Your Heart

Many of my readers may not flinch when they read this title, as they they are pretty well versed in the nutritional and scientific literature. Yet, in the healthcare professions, we’re all taught that anything that raises cholesterol is bad. This theory is slowly dissipating, yet it still resides in many schools and universities (it is also taught to me at the university level in the dietetics program).

The total cholesterol number doesn’t take into account the type of cholesterol being raised, whether it is the “good” cholesterol or the “bad” cholesterol. Therefore, someone with a high cholesterol number might actually be in good health if their HDL is what is contributing to the high number, whereas their LDL and triglycerides are low.

Just between me and you: cholesterol really isn’t “good” or “bad”, because it is an essential component of cell membranes and helps in healing and repair, as well as aiding vitamin D synthesis. Even LDL is useful in some bodily functions. So why are we driven to bring down these levels to very low amounts? Drug companies.

Now there are some types of very small, dense proteins in cholesterol that can squeeze out of the lining of the arteries and oxidize, leading to heart disease. These small proteins are often formed through eating too many refined carbohydrates, as well as eating a diet based on high carbohydrates (thank you, USDA).

Now in the case of coconut oil, coconut oil, being a saturated fat, will raise total cholesterol levels. But, it does so because it raises the HDL, or the “good”, helpful particles in cholesterol to a very high level, while having very little significant changes in the “bad”, dense particles in the cholesterol. Studies have shown that pure coconut oil, although raises total cholesterol, has very little effect on LDL or VLDL (much more harmful) and triglycerides (fat in the blood), while increasing the heart healthy cholesterol practically every cell in our bodies need to function.

This means that pure, organic and unrefined coconut oil, a cholesterol-free oil full of saturated fat (about 66% saturated fat), can actually be beneficial for the heart, immune system (by aiding vitamin D synthesis), brain health and many other areas of our lives.

Coconut Oil, Weight Loss and Cholesterol Levels

Most research is clear on the fact that weight reduction (as well as increased activity associated with weight loss) has a positive effect on cholesterol levels by reducing harmful, small dense cholesterol proteins. When we lose weight and find balance in our weight, our cholesterol levels come into balance, as well.

Some research has shown that coconut oil can increase energy expenditure due the nature and structure of the saturated fats. The fatty acids in coconut oil are composed of medium and short chains, which the body can utilize very quickly for energy. Most long chained fatty acids that come from supposedly “healthy” oils like canola or sunflower seed oil are actually stored as fat much more readily to be used as a later energy source.

Lauric Acid: The Nourishing Nutrient That Everyone is Deficient In

You don’t hear a lot about the benefits of lauric acid in nutrition studies, especially in school where I am studying dietetics. Why is this? Probably because lauric acid is a saturated fatty acid, and most conventional dietetic schools frown on saturated fats.

Lauric acid is found in large amounts in human breast milk, and aids in the development of the brain and immune system of babies. Women lactate at pregnancy for a reason, and lauric acid is present in large amounts for a reason — to nourish the body and brain.

This essential fatty acid can also be utilized for people of all ages, yet it should obviously come from different sources. The food that is highest in lauric acid that is comparable to human milk is coconut oil.

A study from The Netherlands shows that a diet rich in the saturated fat lauric acid can actually reduce harmful cholesterol proteins and have a favorable effect on triglycerides. They do not teach this in conventional nutrition schools!

How Much Coconut Oil Per Day for Cholesterol Health?

The jury is still out on this, but there are some theories as to how much coconut oil our bodies can use daily. These recommendations will vary based on physical body size and activity level, as well as the other foods you’re eating.

Dr. Mary Enig, PhD, a nutritional biochemist, recommends 3 tbsp. of unrefined coconut oil per day to provide the body (and the brain) with the same amount of lauric acid that would be found in human breast milk. Lauric acid may also play a role in cholesterol and bringing it to healthy levels in the body by balancing out the large buoyant proteins and the small dense proteins in the blood.

If you decide to use three tablespoons of coconut oil per day, you may have to reduce the amount of other foods your consume that day, or increase your levels of physical activity. This really isn’t all that difficult when consuming coconut oil, as this tropical oil can actually help stave off hunger and boost your energy (as your body uses the fats in coconut oil readily compared to other fats).

Coconut oil pills should not be purchased, as you would need to take almost 49 capsule per day to equal the amount of three tablespoons! According to Tropical Traditions:

“For one thing, the largest softgel one can make is 1000 mg (1 gram). As most people know, the recommended amount of coconut oil to eat each day by many researchers is about 3.5 tablespoons. 1 tablespoon is 14 grams. So to get the equivalent amount of coconut oil that most people are consuming in capsule form, one  would need to take about 49 capsules a day. The companies peddling these coconut pills are recommending anywhere from 3 to 6 capsules a day, which is only a few drops of coconut oil. “

Pills filled with a little coconut oil is more or less a scam, and is certainly more expensive than coconut oil itself, in its complete form.

This is The Healthy Advocate.



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10 Responses to “Coconut Oil Increases Cholesterol, Yet is Still Healthy for Your Heart”
  1. Bananas 12 April 2012 at 8:34 am #

    I don’t understand this – saturated fats raise your LDL and leave your HDL the same so how can Coconut fat (a saturated fat itself) raide your HDL?

    For example from it specifically says “Saturated fat. The word saturated here refers to the number of hydrogen atoms these fats have. The chain of carbon atoms that makes up these fats holds as many hydrogen atoms as possible, so they’re saturated. Saturated fats are unhealthy.” and “Saturated fats, however, raise blood cholesterol levels more than other types of food, which is why people watching their cholesterol are told to avoid them”

    • admin 19 April 2012 at 2:59 pm #

      Hi Bananas,

      Most of what is being told to us by Universities and conventional news media is based off of nutrition research looking at saturated fat AND trans-fat together, without separating the two. Trans-fat, a man made fat, is very harmful, while saturated fat, a natural fat, isn’t. Unfortunately, because of the “Lipid Hypothesis” back in the ’50s by Ancel Keys, researchers will often just say saturated fat and trans-fat is bad for you.

      Saturated fat does raise cholesterol, but it raises your HDL, while keeping your LDL relatively low.

      Take a look at this interesting article to explain a little more in detail, entitled, “What if Bad Fat Isn’t So Bad?”

  2. Barbara 3 August 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    My husband had a major heart attack in January and is now on Plavix and very limited in the amount of activity he can tolerate. Would you recommend a lower amount for him? He’s been putting about a tablespoon in oatmeal and also using it to saute vegetables. He is afraid that if his cholesterol level goes up then the doctor will raise his dosage of Plavix. Thanks!

    • admin 9 August 2012 at 7:14 am #

      Hi Barbara,

      Has your husband tested his triglyceride levels? Have you guys determined your levels of HDL and LDL? This, along with the information on coconut oil, should be discussed with your doctor.

      Good luck to you both! 🙂

    • Cheryl 29 September 2012 at 9:30 am #

      Hi Barbara
      Plavix is not a cholesterol reducing medication, so you must be confusing it with something else.

  3. Fabien Denry 7 September 2012 at 6:25 am #

    I am a 57 male, 5′ 6, 150 lbs, I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. My father died of a coronary at 62. I have high blood pressure, and am on statin meds. I was on niacin for a couple of years but my MD took me off it when studies revealed their properties on cholesterol doesn’t lower the risks of coronary.
    I saw my MD yesterday and we reviewed the blood tests done the week before my visit. My overall cholesterol is 103, trig. 63, LDL 58, HDL 32. My heart risk went from 4.8 to 3.2 on a scale from 0 to 5.
    I am eating no processed food but for bread and a slice of cheddar cheese and only a slice every other day. The rest is all vegetable, raw or steamed, beans, and I only use quinoa as a cereal. No eggs but salmon or sardines, a few times a week. I am taking post workout soy isolate smoothy and also for breakfast with lots of frozen blueberries and flax-seed meal.
    Do you have any suggestions as to how I should increase my HDL?
    I am cooking with coconut oil but not regularly. I could add it to my steamed vegetables but how much should I add? A teaspoon? A tablespoon?
    (I am using “Nutiva” organic extra virgin Coconut oil that I buy on Amazon website.)
    Should I start eggs again? I miss them but how much per week would you recommend if any?
    Should I start sulfite free organic red wine or red grape juice?
    Thank you for any suggestions you may wish to offer!

  4. Sarah 29 January 2016 at 1:52 pm #

    I’m sorry- are you a licensed physician or pharmacist? You cannot say things like the reason health practitioners tell you to lower LDL is because of drug companies!? You are sending the wrong message to several people who need to be on cholesterol medication due to cardiac history, and heart attacks. Are you aware of the countless studies done on patients that show that low LDL levels decrease mortality and cardiac events? I am a certified cardiac pharmacist who is not being paid by the drug company and can tell you that lower LDL levels most definitely decreases cardiac risk.

    Be careful with the message you send to thousands of vulnerable people looking for answers and help with their health.

    • admin 3 October 2016 at 8:08 pm #

      Hey Sarah,

      Nope, not a licensed pharmacist or physician, and I try to make that very clear. But, I do agree that low LDL lowers the risk for cardiac events. I never said in the post that LDL doesn’t decrease mortality or cardiac events–that would be very inaccurate. I do, however, mention that LDL serves some useful purposes, but it’s by no means good to have high levels of LDL or triglycerides. High HDL and low triglycerides is where it’s at.


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