Coconut Crackdown: Friend or Foe

Coconuts | The Paleo Diet

In my newest book, The Paleo Answer, I provide an in-depth discussion on coconut oil. It is extremely high in a saturated fat called lauric acid which scientifically is labeled 12:0, meaning that it is a fatty acid that contains 12 carbon atoms and no double bonds. At one time, many scientists and nutritionists thought that it was unhealthful and promoted atherosclerosis because it raised total blood cholesterol. However, more recent studies show that it actually improves the total blood lipid profile because it also raises HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol. As the total HDL ratio improves, and if it displaces refined carbohydrates, then it reduces triglycerides and small dense LDL, which also reduce the risk for CVD (cardiovascular disease). Studies of traditional societies living in Pacific islands who consume coconuts for their entire lives appear to be free of CVD, but when they begin to “westernize,” this freedom disappears. So, the best information suggests that coconut oil when consumed without western foods (refined sugars, grains, processed foods, etc.) is a healthful oil.

Lauric acid (12:0) appears to be good for gut health because it has antimicrobial activity which promotes healthy gut bacteria and may help to prevent a leaky gut. Further, since lauric acid has a medium chain length, it is relatively stable during cooking and tends not to breakdown with higher heats. Granted, it contains little polyunsaturated fats and no omega-3 fatty acids, but if the diet is balanced and contains meat and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring), seafood, grass produced meats and free ranging eggs, the omega-3 fatty acid balance should not be adversely affected by coconut oil.

Cordially,

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

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“5” Comments

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  6. Hi Dr Cordain,

    I was trying to find the discussion of coconut oil in “The Paleo Answer” that you refer to. I can’t seem to locate it. Which chapter is it in?

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