Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
I have seen articles that praise coconut oil and others that denounce it as unhealthy. What are your thoughts on coconut oil?
A: Coconut oil is made from the fleshy white part of the coconut. It is a fat rather than oil and consists of almost 90% saturated fat. There is abundant research indicating that saturated fats are bad for the cardiovascular system and cause atherosclerosis, as well as other serious health issues. In fact, one study comparing safflower oil with coconut oil showed that three hours after consuming a meal cooked with coconut oil, the coronary arteries were hindered from expanding to increase blood flow; after six hours, the anti-inflammatory qualities of the HDL (the good cholesterol) in the blood was greatly diminished. The results for the safflower oil were reversed.