In case you miss it, the internet basically imploded this week after the release of research that casts a shadow on coconut oil’s glowing reputation. The Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory considered all the information we have available on saturated fat, and found that coconut oil increased LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol in seven out of seven controlled trials—that’s ALL the trials, guys.
To make matters worse, the advisory even compared coconut oil with other (way less Instagram-friendly) sources of saturated fat, like beef fat, butter, and palm oil. Apparently a whopping 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated, which is actually way higher than butter (63%), beef fat (50%) and even pork lard (39%). Not exactly the most flattering comparison, right?
They even went as far as to tell people to stop eating the stuff: “Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD [cardiovascular disease], and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,” the American Heart Association [American Heart Association] said in the Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease advisory. The study’s lead author said has no idea why people think coconut oil is healthy.
If you’re having a hard time reconciling this new information with everything you thought you knew about coconut oil, we get it. Isn’t this the magical elixir that can do everything from soothe dry skin to possibly even prevent Alzheimer’s?
Well, according to holistic health experts, coconut fans shouldn’t freak out just yet. Nutritionist and author Cassy Joy Garcia said that some wellness pros take a slightly different approach towards fats: “Coconut oil, just as butter made from grass-fed cow’s milk, is a perfectly healthy addition to any diet. In fact, it is much healthier than the AHA’s recommendation for vegetable oil and margarine, two highly inflammatory, highly processed foods,” she told Sporteluxe.
As for topical use, Dr. Erica Walters, MD, a doctor at Park Avenue Skin Solutions in New York City, says that’s still totally safe—so go forth and layer coconut oil on your body and hair. “Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid and other fatty acids that can help moisturize scalp, hair, increase hair growth and for some people also help nourish the skin,” she explained. However, because it’s occlusive, anyone with acne-prone skin should avoid it on their face. “Personally I use extra-virgin organic coconut oil as a makeup remover that completely wipes away even the longest-wear mascaras, then promptly wash it off to prevent pore clogging,” Dr. Walters suggested.