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 Post subject: Truth about coconut oil
 Post Posted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 3:27 am 
Truth about coconut oil

by Dr. D. P. Atukorale
The Island / 20Feb2006

There is confusion in the minds of Sri Lankans following publication of an article on coconut oil by one Professor Adrian Kennedy (A.K.) the Managing Director of Wellness, associated with a Colombo private nursing home, in a Sunday newspaper. A.K. is said to have told the feature editor of the Sunday journal that -

(a) Coconut oil is the main offending factor in Sri Lankan diet;

(b) Consumption of coconut oil results in elevation of serum triglycerides in man and ‘therefore he advises the Sri Lankans to consume polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g. corn oil, soya oil and sunflower oil) and mono-unsaturated fatty acids (e.g. olive oil)

(c ) AK goes on to say that "daily use of coconut oil mid coconut milk must be eliminated from Sri Lankan diet".


AK appears to be confused about the term "triglycerides". It is common knowledge among medical personnel (including medical students said medical technologists) that all vegetable oils such as soya oil and olive oil are usually referred to as triglycerides.

Difference between Fats and oils

Oils remain liquid at room temperature whereas fats are considered solids at room temperature. The term fat and oil are often used interchangeably. Lard is an example of a fat while corn oil is an example of an oil. Both however are fats.

When you cut into steak the white fatty tissue you see is composed of triglycerides and cholesterol. The fat that hangs on our arms, fat that looks like jelly on our thighs and the fat that can make our abdomen look like spare tyres is composed of triglycerides. It is the triglycerides that make our body fat. About 95 percent of the lipids in our diet from both plant, and animal sources are triglycrides.

All saturated fats e.g. coconut oil, beef fat, mutton fat are triglycerides. So are polyunsaturated fats such as soya oil, corn oil and oil are triglycerides. To date there is no scientific evidence to show that consumption of dietary coconut oil or coconut milk causes elevation of serum triglycerides in man.

What Coconut Oil Does Not Do

(a) Does not contain cholesterol.

(b) Does not increase blood cholesterol (total cholesterol or L.D.L. (bad) cholesterol.

(c) Does not increase platelet stickiness which leads to clot formation.

(d) Does not contribute to atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease (CHD) in man.

(e) Does not contribute to weight problems (i.e. obesity) in humans.

What Coconut Oil Does Do

(a) Reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and related illnesses.

(b) Helps prevent bacterial, viral and fungal (including yeast) infections.

(c) Aids the body in fighting Aruses that cause flu, herpes and AIDS.

(d) Supports, immune system function.

(e) Helps prevent osteoporosis.

(F) Helps control diabetes.

(g) Promotes weight loss. Supplies fewer calories than other fats and oils.

(H)Supplies important nutrients necessary for good health.

(I) Improves digestion and nutrient absorption.

(J) Highly resistant to spoilage (long shelf life)

(k) Is heat resistant (The healthiest oil for cooking)

(L) Helps keep skin soft and smooth.

(m) Helps prevent ageing and wrinkling of skin.

(n) Helps protect against skin cancer and other blemishes,

(o) Repeated frying using coconut oil does not result in production of dangerous ketenes, aldehydes and transfats which cause elevation of LDL (bad) cholesterol unlike polyunsaturated oils. Transfatty acids cause reduction of HDL (good) cholesterol.

Coconut oil has been used in India for over 5000 years and for over 1000 years in Sri Lanka without any side effects such as cancer. Unlike polyunsaturated oils, coconut oil does not cause cancer in animals. Coconut oil does not cause lowering of HDL (good) cholesterol in man.

There is no scientific evidence to show that consumption of dietary coconut causes elevation of blood cholesterol, LDL (badl). cholesterol in humans. There is no scientific evidence to show that coconut oil Cattses reduction of HDL (good) cholesterol hi man.

There is no scientific evidence to prove that dietary coconut oil or coconut milk is responsible for epidemic of coronary heart disease (CHD) is Sri Lanka or other countries. On the other hand there is scientific evidence to show that consumption of polyunsaturated oils cause reduction of HDL (good) cholesterol in man. Excessive consumption of polyunsaturated oils causes elevation of serum triglycerides in humans.

Coconut oil has been called the healthiest oil on earth and is one of the nature’s most amazing health products.

I would be very grateful to Prof. Adrian Kennedy (Professor of Wellness) attached to Colombo Apollo Hospital or to any other reader if he could furnish scientific evidence to show that dietary coconut oil or coconut milk cause (a) elevation of blood cholesterol (b) elevation of LDL (bad) cholesterol (c) increases the ratio of LDL/HDL cholesterol, or (d) cause coronary heart disease in humans.


1. Healing Miracles of Coconut oil by Bruce Fife N D.

2.Facts and Fallacies about coconut oil by Thampar.

3. Greenberger N i and Skilman T GY 1969, N. Eng. J. Med, 280, 1045-58,

4. Enag M G, 1993, Coronary Heart Disease. The Dietary Sense mid Nonsense, Janus

5. Publishing, London

6.Wickramasinghe R L, 1994, Coconut Oil Not The Vellam".

7. Fife B, 1999, Saturated Fats May Save Your Life, Healthmise Publications, Colorado Spings, Co.

 Post subject: The truth about coconut - A comment
 Post Posted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 2:25 am 
The truth about coconut - A comment

by Dr. Mahinda de Silva
FACP (Fellow of the American College of Physicians)
FAAAI (Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology

Coconut for thousands of years, has been a major constituent of our diet and an important source of calories in the diet, especially of our rural folk.

I refer to the article titled "the Truth about Coconut" by the distinguished professor of Nutrition and Cardiology and prolific writer on fruits ,nuts and vegetables, Professor Dr. D. P. Athukorale(DPA), printed in The Island,20-2-06.

No informed individual can disagree with the repudiation of the alleged blanket defamation of coconut by Professor Adrian Kennedy (AK). Professor DPA is also absolutely correct about the physico-chemical properties of coconut oil and its advantages as an oil for frying, and its stability. Coconut for thousand of years has been a major constituent of our diet and an important source of calories in the diet, especially of our rural folk. It is a major export and earner of foreign money. Prof. DPA is a nutrition pundit, with considerable media exposure. Therefore, his uncritical litany of claims for "what coconut oil does", and his unqualified advocacy of its unlimited use, ignoring the imprecise state of current scientific knowledge, is regrettable. Nutrition is a vital part of a healthy life and advice should not be given, or taken lightly. Adherence to special diets, often causes homemakers considerable anxiety and expense. It is unfortunate that in Sri Lanka we have no national food and nutrition policy programs that can advise on these matters.

Topical oils such as coconut oil are high in saturated fat, which has been associated with increased risk of high blood cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and heart disease. Compared with other sources of saturated fat, coconut oil contains predominantly saturated fat molecules with medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) lauric acid and myristic acid predominating. This has lead to the speculation that coconut oil might have different effects on cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.

A controlled study of Polynesians found that a diet with coconut oil resulted in lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels compared with butter, while HDL (good cholesterol) was not different between the two diets (Ref 1). Most other controlled studies of healthy young adults have reported that coconut oil increases both LDL and HDL compared with either beef fat, palm oil, or vegetable oils high in unsaturated fats(Ref 2,3,4,5,6,7).

Studies in Sri Lanka

In 1989, a Sri Lankan study conducted by Prof. Shanti Mendis, using male participants showed that when coconut oil is replaced by corn oil, the total blood cholesterol, good (HDL) cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol were similarly decreased. The study found however that consumption of coconut oil, raised both LDL and HDL, and also had the undesirable effect of raising the LDL to HDL ratio. Adding further to the complexity of the subject, Prof. Mendis also found in a subsequent study, that when coconut oil consumption is reduced and that amount is replaced with polyunsaturated oils such as sunflower or sesame oil, total cholesterol and bad cholesterol (LDL) can be reduced without reducing good cholesterol (HDL). It seems therefore, that coconut oil (saturated fat) raised both HDL and LDL, though not proportionally (the LDL: HDL is increased), while polyunsaturated oils decrease both.

Mendis and others also reported that the mean blood HDL cholesterol concentrations of Sri Lankans have been found to be low compared with that of whites. They suggested that this may due to the low fat and high carbohydrate content of our diet. Therefore, further reduction of HDL cholesterol as a result of replacement of coconut fat with polyunsaturated fats, under these circumstances, would produce an undesirable effect.

An editorial in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, No. 5, 1102-1103, November 2004, commenting on a study in the same journal by Mozaffarian et al, probably states the current position best. The effect of saturated fat is different, depending on the percentage of calories supplied by the fat and carbohydrate components of the diet. Its effects are also modified by the presence of certain individual clinical attributes.

In studies of simple hypercholesterolemia (increased blood cholesterol) in men, a fat intake <25% of energy and a carbohydrate intake >60% of energy was associated with a sustained increase in LDL of 40%, a decrease in HDL cholesterol of 3.5%, (9).

In contrast, a low-fat diet in persons with combined hyperlipidemia caused no worsening of LDL or HDL, but intakes of fat >40% of energy and of carbohydrate <45% of energy for 2 years were associated with a lower LDL concentration at a stable weight (10). These effects include the paradox that a high-saturated fat diet is associated with diminished coronary artery disease progression, in women with the metabolic syndrome. These individuals have: Abdominal obesity (excessive fat tissue in and around the abdomen), Atherogenic dyslipidemia (high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and high LDL), Hypertension, Insulin resistance, (diabetic tendency), increased clotting tendency and a proinflammatory state, in the blood. It afflicts 50 million in the US.

Therefore there are different effects of diet on fat -protein physiology and on heart disease risk, which differ in different clinical situations, and in men and women.

It follows that on the basis of the current knowledge regarding the nutritional effects of coconut oil, polyunsaturated oils, saturated fat, and carbohydrate /fat calorie ratios and their effects on heart disease, it would not be sensible to advise major changes in ones diet. One would rather pay attention to other factors which are proven to affect heart disease such as a sedentary lifestyle, Diabetes, Hypertension, Obesity, Smoking, etc.

Our unsaturated fat consumption is low. Adding vegetable oils, nuts, avocado (containing monounsaturated fats) and fish which contain omega 3 fats) are reasonable suggestions. Decrease of Carbohydrate calories to 45% to 50%would probably also be helpful. The use of Statins too is a proven aid to lower LDL blood levels.

Contrary to Prof. DPA, there is no evidence at present, based on scientific methods of evaluation, that Coconut oil helps prevent bacterial, viral and fungal infections, aids the body in fighting viruses that cause flu, herpes and AIDS or supports, immune system function, in human beings! Neither is their evidence supported by scientific studies published in reputable peer reviewed literature, that it prevents Diabetes, Osteoporosis, or has any demonstrable effect on Skin smoothness, Skin Ageing or Skin Cancer". (Peer reviewed articles are those which are reviewed by an editorial board of experts and published in reputed medical journals).

Therefore it is unwise to effect changes in ones diet based on these claims. I reproduce below the references which Professor DPA quotes. Even a layman can see that they are anecdotal, subjective and not from such sources. The one exception. is the reference from the New England Journal of Medicine, of 1969.

Prof. DPA's References 1). Healing Miracles of Coconut oil by Bruce Fife N D. 2). Facts and Fallacies about coconut oil by Thampar. 3). Greenberger N. and Skilman T GY 1969, N. Eng. J. Med, 280, 1045-58, 4). Enag M G, 1993, Coronary Heart Disease. 5) The Dietary Sense mid Nonsense, Janus Publishing, London 6). Wickramasinghe R L, 1994, Coconut Oil Not The Vellam". 7). Fife B, 1999, Saturated Fats May Save Your Life, Healthmise Publications, Colorado Springs, Co.

For a list of the references I have quoted, E- mail me at <ajmdes2@ yahoo.co.uk>

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