I've received a ton of questions in my clinic and through my blog about the American Heart Association's (AHA) recent “ban” on coconut oil. If you're not familiar with this news release, read about it here. This is not just about coconut oil, but really represents the AHA's continued ignorance and unease about allowing healthy sources of saturated fat to be a part of the diet despite a significant amount of research showing no causal link between saturated fat and heart disease. Yes, there are studies on both sides of the slippery saturated fat fence, but for the AHA to make a blanket statement based on hand-picked studies is not rationale. Especially when many of the studies they cite were published before 1980!
I've mentioned in the past that studies on saturated fat or for that matter nutritional studies in general tend to be intrinsically flawed because of the “healthy user effect.” The AHA cites studies from decades ago when saturated fat was universally accepted as being unhealthy. This means in past studies saturated fat consumers tended to be unhealthy individuals who also happened to smoke, avoid exercise and/or eat other unhealthy foods like sugar and fast foods. The type of saturated fat they consumed came from trans fats, recycled lard in deep friers, or confined animals injected with hormones, antibiotics and force-fed grains.
Contrast this with traditional cultures like Pacific Islanders (Tokelau and Kitavans) who had minimal heart disease despite nearly half of their diet coming from coconut fat and the ancient practice of Ayurveda where coconut oil has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The difference in both these cases (Pacific Islanders and Ayurveda) is that coconut oil was being consumed in the context of multiple other healthy lifestyle practices such as a diet without processed foods and abundant in plant-based foods and spices, regular physical activity and abundant sleep to name a few. For those of us practitioners who have been “prescribing” coconut oil in this healthy context, we have seen it benefit our patients greatly.
I also want to highlight that the AHA does have significant conflicts of interest with affiliations with the likes of the United Soybean Board, the US Canola Association, and Coca-Cola to name a few. The individuals drafting these guidelines are not clinicians who thoughtfully prescribe and monitor the effects of healthy doses of saturated fat in the context of a balanced lifestyle.
There are definitely some patients who are more sensitive to saturated fat as evidenced by sustained blood cholesterol elevations and in these cases we would restrict intake of saturated fat sources like coconut oil. This is where medically supervised cholesterol monitoring with dietary changes is critical to determining which changes are therapeutic and which may increase risk. This is the type of thoughtful position statement the AHA needs to make, rather than spreading panic among the masses claiming coconut oil is a killer.
Unrelated News Flash
I did a recent post on low stomach acid here. I wanted to highlight a recent study here showing once again, the risk of ongoing PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitor) medication use (includes meds like Prilosec, Aciphex, Protonix, etc.). PPIs do have a specific role for diagnosed conditions like ulcers, but if you have been taking it indefinitely for more general symptoms like acidity or bloating, you need to reconsider. Review my blog post, make the recommended lifestyle changes, and talk to your doctor about getting off this medication.
Our wilderness retreat is fast approaching so be sure to join us. It will be a close, intimate gathering where you will come away with all the tools necessary to help you and your family achieve optimal health in the midst of our modern, chaotic lives. Prerna and I have treated the most complex patients for years now with highly successful results and this retreat will be a fun way to immerse yourself in the most effective practices we've brought to patients. Register here.
Online Wellness Program Update
Happy to announce that the RID (Reverse Insulin Disorders) online program is nearly complete. This is meant to be an 8-week program (can be completed earlier) based on the principles of my work in helping individuals reverse their insulin-related diseases (prediabetes, diabetes, obesity, PCOS, etc.). It uses cool animations I produced that even school-age kids can understand and tailored lifestyle strategies, apps, etc. to help you beat chronic health conditions that plague us today. Join the interest list here and stay tuned for my announcement when it's open for enrollment.