Coconut oil: superfood or not?

By Judy Buttriss

- Last updated on GMT

Buttriss: 'Coconut oil is almost 100% fat and so each 100ml provides a massive 900 calories'
Buttriss: 'Coconut oil is almost 100% fat and so each 100ml provides a massive 900 calories'

Related tags: Coconut oil, Nutrition

The nutrition science community is becoming increasingly concerned about the health halo around coconut oil and the risk to health if consumption becomes a regular occurrence.

Like all oils, coconut oil is almost 100% fat and so each 100ml provides a massive 900 calories. But of even more concern, over 90% of this fat is saturated fat, predominantly the cholesterol-raising fatty acids known as lauric, myristic and palmitic acids.

By comparison, butter has just 52g of saturated fat/100g, so it’s just over 50% saturated fat.

To put coconut oil in context, the recommended daily limit (reference intake) for saturated fat is 20g for women and 30g for men.

Two tablespoons a day

If all of this came from coconut oil, it would equate to just over 20ml for women and 30ml (two tablespoons) a day for men, leaving no room for contributions from other nutrient-rich sources of fat such as meat, dairy products and eggs.

So how come this oil has joined the ‘superfood’ league and is this justified?

In an open access paper in the March issue of Nutrition Bulletin​, Lockyer and Stanner discuss the evidence for some of the many claims being made in the popular press and via the internet.

They conclude that all oils are high in calories and that the current dietary advice on oils in relation to obesity prevention and also heart health stands firm.

Unsaturated fatty acids

Foods rich in saturated fat should be replaced with sources of unsaturated fatty acids. Oils made from rapeseed, sunflower seeds and olives are particularly rich in this type of fat and only small amounts are needed.

Use of coconut oil should be limited or not consumed at all. Indeed, the government campaign Change4Life lists coconut oil with foods that they say should be ‘left on the shelf’.

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2 comments

Virgin Coconut oil users knows the best

Posted by Supa,

Thanks to virgin coconut oil, 2 table spoon in the morning everyday has proven to be the best source to bring down diabetes
My diabetes reading was 270 before taking the oil
Now it is 113 - what more you need to proof

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What a load of rubbish!

Posted by Matt Wright,

Yes coconut oil is over sold by some marketing companies but there are instances when coconut oil could be suitable. I have checked and have not found coconut oil in the change for life list. Not sure who she is lobbying for!

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