How many of you guys have heard that a Harvard professor called coconut oil pure poison? When I first heard this, I thought, this is crazy. I mean we’re in the coconut oil business, so this is nuts.
So I decided to call my aunt in the Philippines. She’s super smart. She has a PhD in biochemistry. She’s a lipid expert. I wanted to hear her take on it. “Did you hear that there’s a Harvard professor who called coconut oil pure poison.”
She was quiet for a bit. Then she said “Well, I’ve been feeding your uncle copious amounts of coconut oil and it hasn’t killed him yet. In fact, he’s probably going to outlive us all.
My uncle is 92 years young and still going strong.
We’ve been in the coconut oil industry for 3 generations. When we were little girls, we used to watch my grandmother use coconut oil in the kitchen. She cooked with it. It was her go-to first aid kit in a jar. And it wasn’t just us, it was our dogs too.
There are years of anecdotal history behind these remedies. My grandmother knew what she was talking about.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets it. After all, there are Harvard professors and people in the medical community who don’t …
What’s The Confusion About Coconut Oil?
It’s all because of the fats. A lot of people misunderstand fats.
Google saturated fats or coconut oil and you’ll find a slew of information out there. Some is good, some is bad, and a lot of it is inaccurate.
Just like that Harvard professor’s statement that “coconut oil is pure poison.”
She also said there were no studies that prove the health benefits of coconut oil. But we’ll tackle that one later …
How many of you heard this one? Every year the American Heart Association reports on fats and heart disease. And every year, they basically repeat the opinion that all saturated fats are bad. This was a 24-page report.
They mentioned coconut oil once. And they didn’t make any distinction between the different types of saturated fat …
Of course, the media went crazy. USA Today even released a headline saying: “Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy.”
But is that correct? Or is it just one of the many myths about coconut oil?
Myths About Coconut Oil For Animals
When it comes to animals, there are a lot of coconut oil myths.
For example, “coconut oil causes fatty liver disease in cats” is a common one. And our own cats are perfect examples that this is NOT true.
Or what about coconut oil causing pancreatitis in dogs?
Or that animals with pancreatitis or digestive issues shouldn’t take coconut oil?
We want to bust these myths. (And we’ve saved the worst myth for last, so stick around!)
But to do that, we need to talk a little bit about fats first.
There are 2 types of fats. Saturated and unsaturated
Saturated fats can come from vegetable and animal sources.
We categorize them by their molecular chains. It’s all about the length of the chain: short chain, medium chain and long chain (we’ll get into that a bit later).
Unsaturated fats are broken down in two groups: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
- Monounsaturated fats are the omega 9s. These are good fats like olive oil and avocado oil.
- Polyunsaturated fats would be our omega 3s and omega 6s. The omega 3s are marine oils and flax seed oil. Omega 6s would be corn oil, the more common vegetable oils, eggs, dairy.
Unsaturated fats are typically long chain fats.
Omega 3s are essential fatty acids. Our bodies need them, but they can’t produce them, so we need to eat them. Omega 6s are the same. Our bodies need them but can’t produce them. Western diets contain way more omega 6s than 3s. In fact, estimates put the ratio between 17:1 and 20:1.
Need a little more on the science behind fats? Here’s a really quick chemistry lesson …
What are fats? Fats are fat molecules called fatty acids. As we mentioned before, they contain chains of carbon atoms. And these chains are different lengths: short-chain, medium-chain or long-chain.
- Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) have less than 6 carbon atoms
- Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) have between 8-12 carbon atoms
- Long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) have 14 or more carbon atoms
Coconut oil has 12 carbon atoms. That makes it a medium-chain fatty acid.
Why do you need to know about this stuff? It’s because the way our bodies break down these fats is very different. We break down medium-chain fatty acids very differently from long-chain fatty acids.
And that has a lot to do with hydrogen atoms.
Fats are saturated with hydrogen atoms.
Saturated fats have a carbon chain fully saturated with hydrogen atoms.
Unsaturated fats have one or more hydrogen atoms are missing from the carbon chain.
- Monounsaturated = one double bond
- Polyunsaturated = two or more double bonds
That double bond that the missing hydrogen atoms cause means you can’t just leave these on the counter in the sun. They’ll oxidize and go rancid. Saturated fats like coconut oil are fully saturated, so you don’t need to worry about that.
Myth #1: The Saturated Fat Myth
We hear this all the time: “Because coconut oil is a saturated fat, it’s bad for you.”
The problem is, not all saturated fats are the same. And research shows eating saturated fats doesn’t create higher heart disease risk.
Now, this is important.
Our bodies metabolize medium and long-chain very differently.
LCFAs break down thanks to a digestive enzyme called pancreatic lipase. Then they go out into the blood and become chylomicrons. Some go to the fat tissue, some go to the liver. Once they’re in the liver, they become energy, cholesterol or triglycerides.
When that happens, the liver releases them back into the blood. They float around in the blood, make their way to other organs and become a problem. One of the most well-known is of course clogged arteries.
MCFAs don’t need pancreatic lipase to break down. Instead of turning into chylomicrons like LCFAs, they go right to the liver.
So the liver quickly metabolizes these medium chain fatty acids into energy. That’s why it’s considered a thermogenic oil. This means eating it tends to increase energy expenditure compared to other fats.
Myths #2 & 3: The Cholesterol Myth
These two statements are common:
- “Coconut oil is rich in cholesterol so it will raise cholesterol.”
- “Coconut oil causes heart disease.”
They’re also wrong.
Cholesterol is measured in parts per million. Coconut oil actually has very little cholesterol in it. In fact, most vegetable oils have very little cholesterol.
And, the body actually absorbs dietary cholesterol very poorly. Only about a tenth of it is from food. The liver manufactures the rest.
In animals, increased fat in the blood is called hyperlipidemia. This happens about 3 to 10 hours after an animal eats food high in protein or fat.
But coconut oil doesn’t cause this. Food in general doesn’t cause it. The most common cause is a complication from some of these conditions:
- Cushing’s disease
And, just to bust the myth even more … research shows that coconut oil actually raises the HDL. That’s the good cholesterol. And it lowers the LDL:HDL ratio. That’s a really good thing.
Myths #4: “Good” Fat vs “Bad” Fat: Does This Apply To Animals?
There are lots of myths about coconut oil and animals specifically.
For example, it’s common to hear “Animals with pancreatitis shouldn’t eat coconut oil.”
But that’s wrong. Since coconut oil doesn’t need pancreatic lipase for digestion, it doesn’t stress the pancreas at all.
Luckily, dogs can eat both types of fats without the risk of coronary disease, heart attack or stroke.
Dogs have significantly higher levels of HDL compared to LDL. And they’re more resistant to the development of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries).
So no, we don’t have to worry about this with animals – with one exception. Stay away from hydrogenated fats like margarine.
And finally … as for those studies we mentioned earlier …
Myth #5: There Are No Coconut Oil Studies
This one really irks me!! There are thousands and thousands of published studies on coconut oil.
Just visit PubMed.com and type in coconut oil. There are literally thousands of studies.
Add “virgin” to coconut oil and you’ll narrow it down to some very thorough, researched pieces.
BUT … there are also some studies that are real problems. For example, some studies use a combination of fats, such as coconut oil mixed with beef tallow. So be careful. Make sure you read the entire study and not just the abstract.
So, is coconut oil really healthy for your dog? Yes. In fact, it’s actually one of the best sources of healthy saturated fat we can find in nature. Stop believing those coconut oil myths and embrace the power of the coconut.
**This is part of a presentation from The Raw And Natural Dog Summit 2018. To find out more about this groundbreaking annual event, check this out.