• Ateneo professor debunks AHA coconut oil advisory

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    Coconut oil is not to blame for the increase in cardiovascular disease from the American diet, according to a study by a professor from the Ateneo de Manila University.

    In his study dated June 2017 titled “The Warning on Saturated Fat: From Defective Experiments to Defective Guidelines,” Fabian Dayrit of Ateneo de Manila said the “AHA [American Heart Association] should worry about the impact of too much soybean oil – not coconut oil – on the American diet. It should also rethink its support for the Dietary Guidelines.”

    Although coconut oil is gaining a reputation for being a healthy oil because it contains medium-chain triglycerides, the AHA reiterated its warning against its use in the organization’s Presidential Advisory issued last June 15.

    The said risks that the Dietary Guidelines and AHA emphasized can be traced back to the saturated fat-cholesterol-heart disease hypothesis proposed by Ancel Keys in 1957.

    Keys’ hypothesis claimed saturated fats could increase serum cholesterol that could also increase the risk for a heart disease. The hypothesis was adopted by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 1980 as it advised, “Decrease overall fat intake and replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat.”

    The warning against “saturated fat” is virtually the same recommendation that Keys made in the 1950s.

    However, Dayrit contends Keys committed errors. For instance, Keys, Dayrit said, used hydrogenated coconut oil in his hypothesis and concluded from his experiment that coconut oil increases serum cholesterol; but it was known that hydrogenated oils produce trans fats.

    “He conducted both human feeding and observational studies. In his human feeding studies, Keys used hydrogenated coconut oil while in his observational studies, coconut oil was only a minor component of the population’s diet,” Dayrit said.

    Still criticized

    Coconut oil is still being criticized in the US. Julie Corliss’ article “Cracking the coconut oil craze” published in the Harvard Health Publications supported AHA and Dietary Guidelines by citing Qi Sun’s study. The study concluded that there is not enough evidence of coconut oil’s benefit. In addition to this, Nutrition Reviews also states that there is no evidence of coconut oil lowering the risk of heart disease. Although the article states that coconut oil can be beneficial, it stresses that tropical diets are different and warns, “Virgin coconut oil contains small amounts of antioxidant compounds that may help curb inflammation, a harmful process thought to worsen heart disease.”

    Coconut oil is major export product of the Philippines and comprises a big part of the $2-billion export receipts from coconut products in 2016.

    The United Coconut Association of the Philippines (UCAP) is concerned over the latest AHA advisory because it can affect the country’s efforts to export coconut oil, and its domestic consumption.

    “We call on readers and users of coconut oil to be discerning of this advisory, and the news articles who draw the wrong conclusion to misinform consumers. More recent and updated studies establish that there is no direct correlation between coconut oil and CVD [cardiovascular disease],”UCAP said in a statement posted in its official website.

    “Truly, history is repeating itself. The smear campaign against coconut oil is a rehash of the anti-tropical oils campaign waged by the American Soybean Association in the 1980s. The anti-coconut oil sentiment is back and this time has gone viral because of technology,”it added.

    MADGE GENELE RESURRECCION

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