USA Today, June 2017
This is the news bulletin that out of the blue popped up on my phone last month. Wait a minute, is coconut oil, friend or foe? My first thought was, “did I get it all wrong, am I giving my patients bad advice?” Lightning speed behind that was, “who is paying for this propaganda?”
The first big red flag for me was that the American Heart Association put the study together. That’s the organization that has for decades said fat is bad; sugar (including Fruit Loops) is heart healthy. The story behind that statement was “follow the money”. Doctors were bought off and data was manipulated. Millions of people have suffered the health consequences of following a low-fat, high-refined-carb diet. Billions of health care dollars have been wasted, while the pockets of producers of refined foods have been lined.
So what exactly is the American Heart Association recommending now? Stop the butter and coconut and replace with corn and soy oil. Ah, now I can see the money trail once again. The general public is finally beginning to reject sugar and is just not buying that cookies and sodas are good for your health. How is big money and big pharma going to win? With soy and corn this time. Once again, data has been manipulated and taken out of context. The truth is, with a little finesse, data from any study can be turned inside out and opposite conclusions can be reached.
What Causes Heart Disease?
Damage to arteries causes heart disease. It turns out that fat in any form has very little to do with damage to arteries. The image of fat clogging arteries leading to heart disease is a big myth. The real deal is that heart disease is an inflammatory illness. Oxidation of the “bad cholesterol” LDL is an early step in the development of plaque. Without oxidation, LDL would not be a problem.
What is good about the “good cholesterol” HDL? HDL is chock full of benefits above and beyond the important fact that it does not invade the artery walls like LDL. HDL decreases inflammation, is an antioxidant, and prevents coagulation of blood. All of these properties made us love HDL.
So what increases HDL? Coconut of course! Is coconut oil, friend or foe. Here is your answer. Don’t forget that cardiovascular exercise is also an important strategy for HDL optimization. And that smoking cigarettes and exposure to pollution in the air we breathe oxidizes LDL. It isn’t just what we eat; it is also how we live.
10 Tips for Reducing Heart Disease
- Move daily. I would say exercise, but many people find that term intimidating. Just get your body moving on a regular basis by doing something you love. Hike, bike, swim, make love, dance, take a class, join a group, go to the gym, engage a buddy; whatever it takes.
- Avoid processed foods
- Eat local organic food high in phytonutrients (thank your local farmers!)
- Eat more vegetables in a rainbow of colors
- Don’t eat animal products that contain growth hormones and are grown on corn and soy
- Get a blood test for HDL, optimal ratio for total cholesterol divided by HDL is less than 3 (e.g. total cholesterol = 200, HDL = 80, 200/80 = 2.5)
- Reduce stress in your life
- Implement stress reduction techniques such as meditation and deep breathing when external stressor remain high
- Avoid chemicals in water, food and air
- Eat plenty of grass fed butter and organic coconut oil