23 May 2022

Award-winning fitness nutritionist addresses claim that coconut oil is “pure poison”

It seems coconut oil is a hot topic at the moment due to many health, fat loss and a lot of negative claims as one Harvard professor this week called it “pure poison”.

So what’s the truth? In short, coconut oil companies use a clever marketing strategy.

To understand how coconut oil has gotten so popular I need to introduce you to an oil called MCT (medium chain triglyceride).

Without getting to scientific, MCT can bypass a lot of processes in the body and be used in the cells as energy. This is unlike longer chains which must be broken down further and undergo a few processes before entering the cells to be used.

Therefore, MCT has VIP access to the cells while the long chains must wait in line.

MCT oils generally contain either 100% caprylic acid, 100% capric acid or a combination of them both.

MCT oils have been proven to:

·         Improve brain and memory function

·         Boost and increase endurance

·         Boost weight loss and improve weight management

·         Lower cholesterol

·         Lower blood sugar levels

Coconut oil is said to contain roughly 60% MCT. Surely this is great, right? Not as much as we are led to believe.

Medium chain fatty acid in coconut oil is comprised of caproic acid (C6), caprylic acid (C8), capric acid (C10) and lauric acid (C12).

Here is the kicker: out of the 60% of MCT that makes up coconut oil, 45% of that is lauric acid. Lauric acid is different from these other forms in that it has a longer chain than the others, making it slower to absorb into the cell.

So to put it into context, out of 60% of the MCT that shows up only 15% get the VIP treatment and go directly into the cells, while the other 45% gets to skip the line and go in front of the long chains but still must wait in line.

When it comes to MCT oil you hear all about the health benefits and coconut oil companies have used this as a very effective strategy to sell the product. All the health benefits associated with coconut oil are actually from MCT oil.

At the end of the day coconut oil is not poison nor is it going to give you all the health benefits associated with MCT oil due to its small amount of MCT.

Coconut oil is still a saturated fat containing more saturated fat than butter. Coconut oil has a higher burning point than olive oil so it is good to use in cooking and baking.

It will not make you lose weight or burn stubborn belly fat as some will lead you to believe. Only a caloric deficit will help you lose weight, but it can be used in small amounts as an effective fuel source for athletes on a higher fat diet.

My advice

I use coconut oil when frying due to its high tolerance to heat, when making things like protein balls or adding it to a diet plan when fueling for a race.

Apart from cooking, extra virgin olive oil and fats from foods like avocado, nuts and even MCT oil are the best fat sources.

Always be mindful of how much fat you take in. If you are on a diet be mindful that fat contains nine calories per gram whereas carbs and protein contain four calories each per gram. Even if you are eating all good fats, you will not lose weight if you go over your calories.

Let me know your thoughts or ask questions by commenting on Facebook. I go into issues like this in more detail on my FacebookInstagram, Snapchat (Fitness-ppt), Twitter and website.

Defence Forces sniper instructor Peter O’Halloran won Ireland’s Best Fitness Nutritionist/Dietician award at the  Irish Fitness Industry Awards 2018 and Best Use of Social Media by a Gym/Personal Trainer at the Social Media Awards 2018.

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