Why are they doing it? It’s about the money. There’s a lot of money in keeping Americans sick, fat, and requiring surgical and pharmaceutical interventions. There’s a lot of money in selling processed sugary cardboard breakfast cereals, and unfortunately there isn’t much money in selling coconut oil or running a snarky, but honest, health website.
Just because I’m against the American Heart Association, doesn’t mean I’m against conventional medical advice. I happen to be a physician. If your doctor tells you that you need a medication, I am inclined to agree with your doctor, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask why or what you need to do to get off the medication. Patients who change their lifestyle by following my advice get off meds for cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, but you can’t just stop taking your heart meds because you ate a little kale and went for a jog. Also, I prefer yoga and weights. Don’t get me started. My point is that you have to do it with the help of a medical professional, like me.
First let’s discuss Coconut Oil. This stuff has been on a roller coaster of public opinion. Coconut oil was blowing up like Michael Jackson after the Thriller album, but haters gonna hate, and the next thing you know coconut oil and MJ get labeled with embarrassing nicknames like “Wacko Jacko,” “Pure Poison,” or “Accused Pedophile.” USA Today did a hit piece on coconut oil that had my coworker (Let’s just call him Eric.) questioning my enthusiasm for coconuts and the delicious healthy oil they produce. Here’s a link to the bullshit article that Eric was referring to.
First off, how is USA Today still in business? It’s claims to fame are that it’s printed in color, written at a pre-K reading level, and given out free at La Quinta Inn and Suites. Their crossword puzzle gives hints like “this spicy country rhymes with texico.” Speaking of spice, if The USA Today was a spice, it’d be flour. Here are some ridiculous posts from the USA Today.
Back to coconut oil and it’s many detractors. The guy who is behind the aforementioned, well publicized anti-coconut oil article is Dr. Frank Sacks, and when he’s not clubbing baby seals (joke) and serving on the American Whole Grain Board (not a joke), he writes the dietary guidelines for The American Heart Association (AHA). I dislike the AHA, and to a lesser degree Dr. Frank Sacks and I don’t believe a word he says. Here’s why. First, he was the guy who put the “Heart Healthy” label on Cocoa Puffs, Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms and a bunch of other terrible breakfast junk foods.
To be clear, he’s not an idiot (He went to Harvard.), and any nutritional scientist who went to Harvard who tells you that Lucky Charms are good for you, probably lies about other things too. He’s a smart guy, and he gets paid very well to spew this non-sense. In his defense, he probably doesn’t even like telling these lies. He must have a balloon payment coming on his summer home or something.
I’m sure if the coconut farmers would pony up some dough, the AHA would endorse coconut oil as well. Based on their track record, the AHA would put a heart healthy stamp on McDonald’s fries, my couch, or pure uncut Colombian cocaine if provided with the prerequisite monies required for said stamp. To be clear, I’m not saying that the AHA are prostitutes dressed as scientists who sell out the health of the American public to make a buck, but I don’t know how to finish this sentence.
So how does the AHA pretend that coconut oil is bad for us? By ignoring current data and instead using biased and cherry-picked research from the 1960’s to conclude that saturated fats cause heart disease (They don’t.). Coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, as is human breastmilk.
Below is research compiled from this century (no big deal) by Cochrane, aka the gold standard in research (also no big deal), that shows that the AHA’s stance on fats, and especially saturated fats, is about as current as the pants that Hammer used to wear, I forget what they were called.
This is a Cochrane meta-analysis (lots of studies data compiled into one article) about butter, (saturated fat), and this article briefly breaks down the top five saturated fat studies of the last ten years. Be sure to send this link to someone who still is afraid of coconut oil.
I spent half of a day on the AHA website, and I will never ever get that time back, but I kept finding more and more bad advice. Here are some of my favorite terrible pearls (in italics) along with my snarky critiques (not in italics):
Choose Margarine over butter. This is ridiculous and even worse than the Lucky Charms thing. The AHA is the lone holdout defending the Alamo of margarine against an overwhelming onslaught of scientific data. But why? Oh, they get money from margarine manufacturers. They support the use of canola and corn oil for the same reason, but margarine is so stupid bad for you I had to lead with that.
Eat fruits, whole grains, and low fat dairy over protein. I like most fruits (not bananas), but this advice to prefer grains and low fat dairy over protein is how you get diabetes. This advice will keep you hungry, sick, and tired. Please ignore. If you’re gonna eat dairy, get the full fat organic kind. It tastes better and lacks the extra antibiotics and hormones that can lead to early puberty, cancers, and increased breast tissue in men.
Eat non-fat sour cream. Regular sour cream has one ingredient and it’s delicious sour cream. Fat-free sour cream has 18 ingredients (I used Kroger brand as an example.). One of the ingredients is propylene glycol monoester which sounds like lighter fluid and anti-freeze. The AHA can politely f*** off with that fat free Frankenstein sour cream. I’m good with the original and delicious full fat sour cream, thanks.
Drink Soy Milk. Soy milk is not good for you. See my food rants article. If you must drink soy milk, get the organic kind, because conventional soy is about as bad as conventional cow’s milk. I feed my kids almond, flax, or whole organic cow’s milk.
Don’t skip breakfast or lunch. This will be the subject of my next article, because this is an important point, and it’s a little confusing. Also there’s a lot of potential for jokes. All the studies that show eating breakfast is good for you have two things in common. They use questionable methods (small samples, observational data, etc), and they are funded by the people who make breakfast cereals. Time restricted eating (not eating breakfast) and fasting continue to show benefits without downside in waves of unbiased new research. More to come on this, but here’s a snippet. The AHA is just trying to feed you Lucky Charms and give you diabetes. Do they get money from diabetic pharmaceutical companies? You already know the answer.
Organic food is no better than conventional food. Let me guess. There are no organic farms financially supporting the AHA. Yes, that’s correct. The AHA sited a lack of evidence for organic foods’ benefits. I guess there are mountains of data supporting the consumption of Lucky Charms. In my opinion, we should eat organic as much as our budget allows but especially with regards to the dairy we feed our kids and the fruits and vegetables that have edible skin like grapes, berries, tomatoes, broccoli, etc. More on this soon.
You can use sugars to help enhance your diet. The AHA message to monitor and limit “added sugar,” but to not worry about “naturally occurring sugar” is reckless. So the ridiculous amounts of sugar in orange juice is healthy but the solitary sugar cube in my Old Fashioned is not? Wrong. They’re both bad. The only difference is that OJ producers fund the AHA. On yet another side note, my Old Fashioneds are amazing. I may or may not be having one right meow. Hint: I am.
The more time on the AHA website, the more I laugh and drink and then cross-reference their corporate donors. Everybody needs a hobby. In the spirit of transparency, my website continues to operate without any corporate sponsors, unfortunately.
I’m going to wrap this up with some positivity. Coconut oil is proven to increase HDL cholesterol (the most important cholesterol marker for heart health) and decrease inflammation. There is a long list of other reported benefits. Here’s a link to a long list, not all of the benefits have been proven definitively but many have. In my opinion, the really great thing about coconut oil is that it is mostly (66%) made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a rare type of fat that are the perfect size and shape for our liver to use for energy. To utilize other fats as energy, our liver must break them down into just the right size and then turn them into ketones (Ketones are the energy molecules derived from fats.). This takes time which reduces the amount of energy we receive. MCTs are already the right size, so breaking them down into ketones is easy which is why MCTs are an amazing energizing fuel for our bodies that we can feel working right away. MCTs are especially great for our brains because our brains are pound for pound the largest energy utilizers in the body. Also, MCTs are incapable of being stored as fat. So even better. MCTs are used today in treatments for Alzheimer’s, seizures, Parkinson’s, cancer, and obesity.
Pure MCT oil can be purchased online and at health food stores but I find that in addition to the energy it gives me, I experience extreme gastrointestinal urgency sometimes bordering on an emergency. This is due to the liver not being able to handle a big dose of MCT which results in it returning the oil directly to the intestines. I’m told that I just need smaller doses and for my GI tract to get used to the MCT oil, but so far it’s been a series of close calls. For this reason I prefer pure coconut oil or MCT powder mixed with my coffee which has no such effects. More writing to come on this later.
In conclusion: Coconut oil is great, the AHA are corporate puppets whose recommendations are hurting Americans, and I’m still searching for non-porn sponsors for my website. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.