Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More on Coconut Oil

Dear Readers,

The question of using coconut oil has been raised in previous blog questions and emails. Presented in this post are comments from Dr. Cordain and Paleo Diet team member Pedro Bastos on the use of coconut oil as part of the Paleo Diet.

Q: Is there a good reason to avoid using coconut oil?

A: This is not a clear cut issue as it once was. Coconut oil contains high concentrations of a saturated fatty acid called lauric acid (12:0) as well as other medium chain fatty acids (8:0, 10:0) which may have therapeutic effects. Coconut oil also contains other saturated fatty acids which elevate blood cholesterol. However, elevations in blood cholesterol without chronic low level inflammation may not necessarily increase the risk for CHD. My feeling is that coconut oil in the backdrop of a modern day Paleo Diet probably has few negative health implications.

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor

A: I agree with Loren. Lauric acid has a more favorable effect on total HDL cholesterol than any other fatty acid, either saturated or unsaturated.

And, coconut oil appears to decrease Lipoprotein(a). Moreover, in primitive populations living close to water and where coconuts are available, these were probably consumed. I can think of at least 2 populations that eat a high amount of coconuts and exhibit a low incidence of CHD disease (Kitava and Tokelau), although we can't exclude the possibility that they could be even healthier if they didn't eat coconuts.

Hence, I believe coconut oil in the context of a 90% Paleo Diet (+ sun exposure + adequate sleep + regular exercise) may be neutral or even positive.

I hope this helps.


  1. Dr Cordain - Can you please comment on exercised induced asthma and what changes in the diet that you recommend to reduce its severity? I've had it most of my life with it getting progressively worse over the years despite taking a wide variety of asthma drugs (Singular, Symbicort abd Albuterol). I recently eliminated dairy and gluten from my diet and that change appears to have helped a bit. What else would you recommend as far as dietary changes that might help me get this situation under control? Someone recently mentioned that reducing sodium intake would also have a beneficial effect on asthma. I can't find anything to substantiate this. Thanks you.

  2. Posted on behalf of Dr. Cordain:

    Hi Gary,

    I have experimental data from our laboratory showing that a salt free diet benefits EIA patients, as does increased omega 3 fatty acids. Hence it is not surprising to hear that EIA can be resolved by following the Paleo Diet.

    Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor

  3. I have nearly read every health book brought out and have just finished reading The Blood Type diets. What are your thoughts on these diets?
    My chiropractor recently recommended your book. I have not read it yet, but please tell give me a good reason to purchase yet another health book. On reading some of your readers letters I am still vague as to whether or not stop taking flaxseed oil. Regards Confused!

  4. How about coconut oil and it's positive effects on LDL particle size?

    Saturated fats typically change liporotein size pattern from small to large, which is good. Small dense LDL or sdLDL has recently been recognized a far more predictive measure of CAD-risk than sole LDL concentration. Small dense LDL is typically elevated by eating large amounts of refined carbohydrates. Please see Ronald Krauss's papers for more information, he is the prime researcher in this particular field and participated in writing a recent meta-analysis which concluded that saturated fats do NOT promote CAD.

    I believe that CAD research field still has a lot of unaswered questions that are relevant to paleo diet, like n-3/6 PUFAs and their vasculatory effects on higher saturated fat diets.

    Obviously it can be concluded, that coconut and lard are two rather different entities altogether and their relative malignancy is somewhat mediated by refined dietary carbohydrates, especially non-fruit fructose content. Also insulin rising effects of wheat and other grains are important, which is the point I agree with you the most - obviously.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter!


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