Until the 1930s, even bread in the US was made using coconut oil. Things changed and the ghost of cholesterol rose to flourish as the best business. Several so-called experts and organisations continue to label coconut oil as bad for health. However, one blog, FoodBabe, has exposed the nexus between these experts, organisations and industry players.
"When it comes to health information, we must ALWAYS consider the source (and examine it well!). Even if advice seems to come from a perfectly respectable organisation on the surface (like the American Heart Association-AHA) – research who they are, who funds their work, and what types of health claims they’ve made in the past. This is something I do when reading health-related articles – and in today’s age of political and industry propaganda and manipulations, it is imperative that you take this step to be your own health advocate," says Vani Hari, food activist, creator of FoodBabe.com and author of 'The Food Babe Way'.
Some recent headlines in the US media once again try to term coconut oil as unhealthy. This includes, "Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy” (USA Today), “Nutrition experts warn coconut oil is on par with beef fat, butter” (Chicago Tribune), “This popular health food is worse for you than pork lard” (Daily Star) and “Coconut Oil Isn’t As Healthy As We Thought, According To Depressing New Study” (Elite Daily).
Ms Hari says it seems the entire Internet freaked out at this “news”, and for good reason. "But I would be remiss if I did not remind you all to be very careful about health advice reported in the media – because some well-meaning reporters fall for basic industry tricks like this one that has just happened," she added.
Busting the myths propagated by doctors and nutritionists over coconut oil, Dr Hegde had told Moneylife, “I am surprised when people say coconut oil is poison. If a doctor says that it contains cholesterol, it means he has not gone to a medical college. First thing they teach you in any medical school is biochemistry, where students learn that cholesterol comes from animal source. How can a plant like coconut could then be a source of cholesterol?”
“After realising this mistake, they (doctors and nutritionists) started saying that coconut oil contains saturated fat and hence it is bad. The larger question here is that one should inquire what coconut oil contains and not directly label it as bad,” the “people’s doctor”, had said.
According to Prof Dr Hegde, coconut oil and mother’s milk are the only two things that get digested in the mouth of a baby. “Both coconut oil and mother’s milk contains sodium monolaurate, which is monolauric acid and forms the basis of human immune system.”
Coming back to Vani Hari's blog, she says the American Heart Association (AHA) had released a new Presidential Advisory recommending that everyone avoid coconut oil, stating that it is high in saturated fat and raises ‘bad’ cholesterol levels – which they believe leads to heart disease.
"AHA is the same organisation who told us for years to eat margarine (which was notoriously high in trans fat) calling it ‘more heart-healthy’ than butter because it contains ‘no dietary cholesterol’. They started this recommendation back in the 1960’s and continued it for decades, while the primary ingredient in margarine was partially hydrogenated oil full of trans fat. Well, we now know that the trans fat in partially hydrogenated oils are responsible for upwards of 20,000 heart attacks every year – which spurred the FDA to finally ban it from our food (effective in 2018). It’s rare for the FDA to ban anything! Boy, I’d say the AHA was way off on that recommendation, wouldn’t you?" Ms Hari says in the post.
According to Foodbabe.com, AHA and Big Food are long time best friends. It says, "Over the years, their sponsors have included a who’s who list of the worst Big Food brands out there, who fill their foods up with soybean oil, canola oil, processed meats, and sugar. This includes Kellogg’s, Pepsico, General Mills, Nestle, Mars, Domino’s Pizza, Kraft, Subway and Quaker."
"The AHA is also raking in upwards of $15 million dollars per year from drug and healthcare companies – including over $3 million from Pfizer (the maker of the statin drug Lipitor that reduces cholesterol). Could this be why the AHA recommends that millions more Americans be prescribed statins, even healthy older people with no history of heart disease? The members of their research committee are raking in industry dollars too… receiving tens of thousands from drug companies to fund research, make trial appearances, and serve as consultants – which is a blatant conflict of interest," Ms Hari says in her blogpost.