Are medium chain triglycerides good or bad?
Coconut oil is a source of medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) (this is the scientific way of describing the type of fat based on its chemical composition), however the main type of MCT found in coconut oil, lauric acid acts more like a saturated fat. Saturated fats raise LDL-cholesterol (i.e. the bad type of cholesterol). All saturated fats raise LDL-cholesterol and high LDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Are all saturated fats the same for example coconut oil?
Coconut oil contains about 92% saturated fat and butter contains about 63%. Because of this, they are not considered to be heart healthy. In comparison, olive oil contains only 15% saturated fat and rapeseed oil only about 8%. The remainder is made of the healthier types of fat which are the monounsaturated fats (found in olive and rapeseed oil) and polyunsaturated fats (found in sunflower oil). These types of fat are the preferred choices for heart health as they lower levels of LDL-cholesterol but increase the levels of HDL-cholesterol (i.e. the good type of cholesterol).
Is lauric acid anti-inflammatory?
There is insufficient evidence to show anti-inflammatory properties of lauric acid in humans, and any potential anti-inflammatory properties would likely be offset by the high saturated fat content of coconut oil. Fruit and vegetables are proven to be anti-inflammatory and so aim to include a variety of fruit, vegetables and salad in your daily diet (5-7 servings/day).
Read more information on following a heart healthy diet using the Mediterranean approach. Other good resources visit www.indi.ie and for information on portion sizes of fruit, vegetables and salad check out Healthy Ireland.
Suzanne Seery, Croí Lead Dietitian