Coconut oil

There is a great deal of conflicting advice about diet and nutrition – often provided by people with no nutrition qualifications. Sadly, the more controversial claims often create more hype and a greater following among consumers.

Recently, there has been discussion around the potential benefits of coconut oil. In reality, foods rich in saturated fat (such as coconut oil) are linked with a higher risk of heart disease, and eating high fat foods, which are therefore higher in energy, makes weight control more difficult. 

The New Zealand Heart Foundation has recently issued an evidence-based statement on coconut oil and heart health.

In Australia, the Heart Foundation recommends avoiding coconut oil due to its high saturated fat content (around 85-90 per cent saturated fat). Saturated fat increases total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, and increases the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats are not an essential part of the human diet.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) encourages people looking to lose weight and lower their risk of heart disease to eat a balanced, healthy diet in line with the recommendations of the Australian Dietary Guidelines. When it comes to diet and health, there is no ‘magic bullet’, and no single food that causes disease. We need to look at the whole diet.

DAA also encourages people seeking expert nutrition advice to look for the Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) credential when choosing a nutrition professional. Anyone can call themselves a ‘dietitian’ – even people with little or no nutrition qualifications. But the APD credential is the quality standard for nutrition and dietetics services in Australia, as recognised by the Australian Government.

DAA acknowledges that more research on this topic needs to be conducted, and until there is sufficient evidence, DAA supports the current Australian Dietary Guidelines.

For more information see the Saturated or not: Does type of fat matter? webcast by the Harvard School of Public Health.

DAA’s Nutrition A-Z on coconut oil also contains further information on this topic.