The question of using coconut oil has been raised in previous blog questions and emails. Presented in this post are comments from Dr. Cordain and Paleo Diet team member Pedro Bastos on the use of coconut oil as part of the Paleo Diet.
Q: Is there a good reason to avoid using coconut oil?
Dr. Cordain’s Response:
This is not a clear cut issue as it once was. Coconut oil contains high concentrations of a saturated fatty acid called lauric acid (12:0) as well as other medium chain fatty acids (8:0, 10:0) which may have therapeutic effects. Coconut oil also contains other saturated fatty acids which elevate blood cholesterol. However, elevations in blood cholesterol without chronic low level inflammation may not necessarily increase the risk for CHD. My feeling is that coconut oil in the backdrop of a modern day Paleo Diet probably has few negative health implications.
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
Pedro Bastos’ Response:
I agree with Loren. Lauric acid has a more favorable effect on total HDL cholesterol than any other fatty acid, either saturated or unsaturated.
And, coconut oil appears to decrease Lipoprotein(a). Moreover, in primitive populations living close to water and where coconuts are available, these were probably consumed. I can think of at least 2 populations that eat a high amount of coconuts and exhibit a low incidence of CHD disease (Kitava and Tokelau), although we can’t exclude the possibility that they could be even healthier if they didn’t eat coconuts.
Hence, I believe coconut oil in the context of a 90% Paleo Diet (+ sun exposure + adequate sleep + regular exercise) may be neutral or even positive.
I hope this helps.
Pedro Bastos, MA, MS, Ph.D. candidate in Medical Sciences at Lund University, Sweden; International College of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine