Coconut Oil- Poison or Nectar?

by | Sep 5, 2018 | Blog

As coconut oil grows in popularity, more and more pet owners choose to give it to their pets as a supplement. This is especially true for a growing number of raw feeders. However, coconut oil is undergoing a lot of criticism, pitting its supporters and opposers against each other.

We all heard recent nutritional talk, where Harvard Professor, Karin Michels, called coconut oil “pure poison,” and “one of the worst foods.”  She was later slammed by a renowned cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra, who commented that Michel’s remarks in regard to coconut oil are “unscientific nonsense.”  It somewhat difficult to find out the truth that lies behind the controversy, however, what does it means for us and our pets. Let’s try to find out!

First of all, let’s ask what made the professor say that coconut oil is “pure poison?” It is evident from the interview that the reason lies behind the high percentage of saturated fats.  Indeed, coconut oil is 90% saturated fat.  Saturated fat decades ago gained a bad publicity in the American society. It is being linked to obesity and heart disease, such as cardiovascular disease also known as atherosclerosis. However, as most things today, it is not set in stone. There are as many studies involving saturated fat that show bad outcome, as there are those that show either good outcome or no correlation at all. Moreover, it is important to notice that nutritional science, currently, cannot break down conclusively a specific outcome to a specific food. According to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, “the current studies do not show the cause and effect correlation, just an association.”  There are too many factors involved to reach any certain conclusion. Instead of talking about countless studies I would like to offer you a real-life experience that happened to me years ago. At that time, I worked on a project, exploring non-antioxidant diets. We fed rabbits with oatmeal seeds with abundance of coconut oil. All other fats were extracted. For three months rabbits ate strictly this diet (3 months for rabbits is a significant part of their short life cycle.)

During this period rabbits were:

  •  deprived of all fatty substances except of coconut oil;
  •  deprived of normal supplementation with oxidative molecules;
  •  very limited in exercise.

We found that just a few rabbits had signs of atherosclerosis, so we couldn’t reach conclusions that we were looking for in this experiment. However, for me, this experiment had an additional philosophical outcome. I asked myself, whether it possible to pick out one factor as the main cause of the disease if combination of three factors could produce it? In other words, can we say that coconut oil is the main reason of atherosclerosis?

Evidently, since it is still a debate, everything should be taken in moderation. There is currently no absolute truth in regard to health risks or benefits associated with coconut oil. We simply do not know it, yet. Therefore, it can be stated that coconut oil is not a poison, nor it is a nectar. It is somewhere in the middle. There is certain scientific evidence regarding the health benefits of coconut oil as well. Again, the opposite is true, and many nutritional studies cannot give us a certain answer. However, several authoritative studies link coconut oil to many health benefits. It is stated to aid digestion, skin, improve immunity, and, yes, prevent heart disease. The studies link its benefits to having a so-called good cholesterol, or HDL. Again, I will offer you a real-life experience. In another study we found that when saturated fat presented in food in elevated amount, a significant fraction of it passed out undigested, normalizing fecal masses. In conclusion, since at this point science cannot give us a definite answer we can have a temporary solution. We weigh the health benefits and risks associated with coconut oil and decide on our own. Just like we do with everything else in life. In my opinion, perceived benefits of coconut oil overweigh the perceived risks, and therefore, considering everything mentioned above, I choose to use coconut oil.
P.S. It is also essential to notice that everything should be taken in a right dose. Even water in very large quantities can cause harm. In a low dosage, coconut oil provides its perceived benefits with a minimized risk of causing heart disease, if such a correlation is proven. In addition, I would like to mention that there is a healthier alternative, a less-known cousin of coconut oil.  It is called coconut butter. The main difference between the two is that coconut butter is made of mashed coconut meat, leaving it with even more nutritional elements.  Besides saturated fats, coconut butter contains fiber, water, and protein, increasing its nutritional and supplemental value. Therefore, when it comes to my pet’s diet, I prefer coconut butter to coconut oil, to maximize the benefit. Dr. Efroim Gurman Ph.D
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