THE EFFECTS OF COCONUT OIL ON CHOLESTEROL and HDL LEVELS
Dr. Mary Enig MS (Nutritional Sciences), Ph.D. did original research that showed a positive link between vegetable oil and cancer and a negative correlation for animal fat. She originated comprehensive analysis of trans fatty acid components of over 200 foods. Trans fatty acids are formed when vegetable oils are hydrogenated or heated to high temperatures. With high temperatures, trans fatty acids are fats that are twisted, which alter their natural “cis” shape. She studied how the trans fatty acids from foods affected the liver’s mixed function oxidase enzyme system that metabolizes drugs and environmental pollutants in the body. An important finding of this latter study was that laboratory animals fed experimental diets containing trans fatty acids have altered activity of this enzyme system. These results were partly responsible for the review of the “Health Aspects of Dietary Trans Fatty Acids” held by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Life Sciences Research Office, at the request of the Food and Drug Administration. Mary Enig has had 17 articles published in scientific journals since 1976. In 1986, she was appointed by the Governor of Maryland to the “State Advisory Council on Nutrition.” She was contributing editor to “Clinical Nutrition” magazine and consulting editor for the “Journal of the
In an article published in the Indian Coconut Journal, Sept., 1995, Dr. Enig stated that “Ancel Keys is largely responsible for starting the anti-saturated fat agenda in the
Enig also stated: “The problems for coconut oil started four decades ago when researchers fed animals hydrogenated coconut oil that was purposely altered to make it completely devoid of any essential fatty acids…The animals fed the hydrogenated coconut oil (as the only fat source) naturally became essential fatty acid deficient; their serum cholesterol increased. Diets that cause an essential fatty acid deficiency always produce an increase in serum cholesterol levels as well as in increase in the atherosclerotic indices. The same effect has also been seen when other …highly hydrogenated oils such as cottonseed, soybean or corn oils have been fed; so it is clearly a function of the hydrogenated products, either because the oil is essential fatty acid (EFA) deficient or because of trans fatty acids.”
What about studies where animals were fed unprocessed coconut oil? Enig wrote: “Hostmark et al (1980) compared the effects of diets containing 10% coconut oil and 10% sunflower oil on lipoprotein distribution in male Wistar rats. Coconut oil feeding produced significantly lower levels (p=0.05) of pre-beta lipoproteins (VLDL) and significantly higher (p=<0.01) alpha-lipoproteins (HDL) relative to sunflower feeding.” (Editor’s note: HDLs are considered the good cholesterol as they prevent deposits of LDL cholesterol on artery walls.) She also cited a study by Awad (1981) on Wistar rats fed a diet of either 14% (natural) coconut oil or 14% safflower oil. She stated:“Total tissue cholesterol accumulation for animals on the safflower diet was six times greater than for animals fed the [unhydrogenated] coconut oil..A conclusion that can be drawn from some of the animal research is that feeding hydrogenated coconut oil devoid of essential fatty acids(EFA)…potentiates the formation of atherosclerosis markers. It is of note that animals fed regular coconut oil have less cholesterol deposited in their livers and other parts of their bodies.” Enig also referred to epidemiological studies done by Kaunitz and Dayrit (1992) on coconut eating societies who found that “available population studies show that dietary coconut oil does not lead to high serum cholesterol nor to high coronary heart disease..” It is noteworthy that hydrogenated coconut oil was not consumed by these coconut eating societies; they only consumed natural coconut oil.
Kaunitz and Dayrit noted in 1989 that Mendis et al reported when Sri Lankan males were changed from their normal diet of natural coconut oil to corn oil, their LDL cholesterol declined 23.8% which is good news, but their HDL cholesterol declined 41.4% which is bad news. This created a more unfavorable LDL/HDL ratio meaning that on the corn oil diet there would be more cholesterol depositing on the artery walls than on the coconut oil diet. In plain English, a diet using liquid corn oil will lead to cholesterol deposits faster than a diet using natural coconut oil. Natural coconut oil, by increasing the good HDL cholesterol, may help prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease. Enig cited several other studies in her article that showed that natural coconut oil (not hydrogenated coconut oil) had health benefits markers indicating that coconut oil was more beneficial in preventing heart disease than most vegetable oils. Enig also cited the research of Tholstrup et al (1994) on natural (NOT hydrogenated) palm kernel oil which is high in lauric acid and also contains myristic acid. Tholstrup found that with palm kernel oil, “HDL cholesterol levels increased significantly from baseline values.”
Enig reported in her article that the effects of coconut oil on persons with low cholesterol levels was the opposite of persons with high cholesterol levels. Of persons with low total cholesterol counts, she wrote that “there may be a rising of serum cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and especially HDL cholesterol.” In persons with high cholesterol levels, “there is lowering of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.” The studies she cited showed that in both groups the LDL/HDL ratio moved in a favorable direction. In persons with AIDS or immune-compromised from other causes, the conclusions of this research are profound. It means everything the public has been told about vegetable oils on television for the past 15 years has been half truths and leading the public to the wrong conclusions. The public has been led to believe that tropicals will clog your arteries and cause heart disease. In fact, the opposite is true; natural tropical oils will help prevent hardening of the arteries while most liquid vegetable oils will increase hardening of the arteries! In a phone call to Mary Enig in April, 1997, she told me that the worst oil to use for any purpose is Canola oil. When used in cooking, it produces the very high levels of trans fatty acids.