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Coconut oil’s health benefits questionable

The media is filled with information about coconut oil. Some sources advertise that it decreases cholesterol, enhances weight loss and promotes digestive health.

Now let’s decipher the facts.

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat. It contains 117 calories, 13.6 grams of total fat  — 11.8 grams of saturated fat, 0.8 grams of monounsaturated fat and 0.2 grams of polyunsaturated fat — and no protein or carbohydrates per tablespoon.

Coconut oil often is added to water, and it appears in many recipes for items such as muffins and breads. It can be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores.

The Healthy People of 2020 objectives encourage Americans to:

* Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods, especially whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free milk or milk products, lean meats and other protein sources

* Limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, sodium (salt) and alcohol

* Limit calorie intake to meet the body’s calorie needs

* Avoid unhealthy weight gain and lose weight if their weight is too high

Because coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it does not fit into the guidelines.

As for the claim that it decreases cholesterol, recent studies indicate coconut oil also is high in lauric acid, which raises low-density lipoprotein (“bad”) cholesterol as well as high-density lipoprotein (“good”) cholesterol. While many articles advertise that it raises high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, they don’t mention the fact that it also increases low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.

People already have plenty of fat in their diet without adding this extra saturated fat. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that most people reasonably can accommodate no more than 5 to 15 percent of calories from solid fats and added sugars.

The bottom line is that the research isn’t sufficient to suggest coconut oil consumption.

For more information on this topic, contact Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, at 252-9030 or christina.rittenbach@